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From passion to profession: His future career in robotics will contribute towards a safer Singapore
By Glenn Wong

Engineering undergrad RK Suriya Varshan’s fruitful internship with HTX helped him develop skills necessary to fulfil his ambition

Besides helping him hone his technical skills, Mr RK Suriya Varshan’s nine-month internship with Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) also enabled him to grow in a personal and professional capacity.

A curious kid growing up, Mr RK Suriya Varshan would often tinker with household items such as TV remotes and mini fans, taking them apart whenever they stopped working to fix them – an interest he picked up from his father. 

To develop this fledgling passion further, Mr Varshan enrolled in a diploma course in Mechatronics at Temasek Polytechnic. The course equipped him with skill sets in areas such as engineering, robotics and advanced automation technologies. 

Nurturing his capabilities

In his final year in poly before his graduation, he interned at HTX’s Robotics, Automation & Unmanned Systems (RAUS) Centre of Expertise. A statutory board under the Ministry of Home Affairs, HTX (Home Team Science and Technology Agency) develops scientific and engineering innovations and solutions for Singapore’s homeland security.

Mr Varshan assisted the RAUS team in developing robotics solutions for various Home Team departments. He was involved in ideating and prototyping products, and ensuring that they meet the needs of Home Team operations.

He reflects: “We hardly think about how things around us are connected to robotics. But even our kitchen tools and consumer electronics have automated parts – the machine knows when to go, when to stop. Robotics is the basis for a lot of things in our life today.”

One of his achievements was completing a prototype of a camera-mounted and remote-controlled Mecanum wheel platform, which is an omni-directional wheel design for a land-based vehicle. This would enable Home Team officers to view and record live video feeds more effectively as the robot can manoeuvre in multiple directions in tight spaces.

He spent three months building the robot prototype from scratch, and had the flexibility to map his project milestones, including setting his own deadlines to complete his circuit design, assembly and coding. 

During that time, his supervisors and colleagues were always there to support and guide him – especially when he encountered obstacles. “This gave me a strong sense of ownership, and more confidence to explore and come up with solutions to my problems,” he says.

He found the experience at RAUS so fulfilling that he extended his internship from five to nine months. 

Valuable skills

The 24-year-old, who is currently a second-year Engineering Product Development undergraduate at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), had acquired industry-specific skills and knowledge from his internship. These have come in handy for his university projects. 

He says: “I was able to apply the Mecanum algorithm that I picked up in a robotics competition, Roboclash 2022, where I designed a robot that could collect cubes while manoeuvring through obstacles.” His team came in second in the competition.

More importantly, he adds, the energetic pace at which projects are being developed at HTX also motivated him to want to constantly upgrade his skills. In May last year, he had the opportunity to present his innovations at TechXplore, HTX’s showcase of technologies and innovations, and speak to Home Team officers on what they do and learn about other projects involving robotics. 

Beyond honing his technical skills, his internship at RAUS had also helped the self-professed shy student to come out of his shell. No surprises why he chose HTX as his parent agency when he was awarded the Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholarship (Engineering) last year. “Everyone looks out for one another here,” he shares. 

The familial environment at the organisation is another reason why he chose HTX, and looks forward to working there when he graduates.

His advice to STEM talents in search of a scholarship: “Committing to a scholarship is not daunting at all, if you’re willing to follow your passion, work hard and maintain a positive attitude.”

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