By Jason Nathaniel Sutio (22S06U)
On 6 August 2022, Raffles Institution held its very own TEDx event inviting 16 different speakers, including students, alumni and teachers, from various backgrounds to spark curiosity, scepticism, and discussions on a range of subjects that matter.
The “x” on TEDx stands for “independently-organised”, in that the event is on a community-by-community basis. Here, TED-like talks are shared with the Rafflesian community following the theme “Impact”.
The co-founders of this TEDx event, Eric Li (21S06E) and Nyx Audrey Angelo Iskandar (22S06G), chose the theme to reflect their mission for inspiring more conversation and to allow for a myriad of topics and stories. Nyx kick-started the event by sharing her own journey with coding and how this eventually brought about the TEDx mission of variety. She felt underexposed to other fields of interest because she was too engrossed with coding, and wanted the chance to listen to many other speakers with various interests.
Science and Technology
The different talks can be grouped into similar themes, among which is science and technology.
One such wonderful sharing was by Prof. Alex Siow (alumnus RJC ’72), who reflected on “Leadership in the Era of Transformation”. In the age of digital transformation, he proposed principles to navigate the uncertain waters of digital disruptions: having a transformative vision, being adept at risk management and innovating security management.
As a professor in the School of Computing, NUS, since 2015, and having helmed executive positions at many corporations including StarHub and Accenture, his talk drew on his own experience of businesses navigating the world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA).
“Leadership is indeed situational,” he concluded. “When faced with massive disruptions in business, many companies have to reinvent themselves or perish. Many traditional leaders have lost their positions as they are not able to face challenges by emerging technologies.”
Alex Li (22S03O) touched on a topic more “appreciated” by H2 Chemistry students: Organic Chemistry. “Plagued with heavy content and demanding memorisation of facts, organic chemistry seems too dry to be organic,” Alex quipped.
Alex’s talk focused on the history of organic chemistry and his passion for the element carbon. He shared how organic chemistry is present in our clothes, medicine and organs. Due to the dynamic nature of organic chemistry, it has limitless potential to solve new emerging problems.
“Just because a problem has been solved, doesn’t mean it’s gone. Bacteria have gained resistance to antibiotics. Plastics have been criticised for environmental degradation. Some T-shirts irritate skin. And cancer continues to ravage humanity,” Alex explains. “Fear not, because organic chemistry is here to stay.”
Other speakers who spoke about science and technology included Eric Li (21S06E), who explored the history and promise of blockchain and cryptocurrency — a world where the people, instead of the government or companies, hold ultimate power. Secondary 4 students Santusht Narula (4J) and Kushagra Kesarwani (4F) elaborated on the future of the aviation industry with regards to the impact of Covid-19 and the switch to greener hydrogen power respectively.
Other speakers discussed a variety of diverse social issues.
Ms. Geraldine Tan wanted to use scientific and mathematical methods to discover how to achieve optimal infant sleep for a better motherhood experience. To do so, she started a non-profit parenting support group, collecting data from more than 25,000 parents internationally over the course of 3 years.
She started this community because she could not find reliable solutions for consistent infant sleep. After reading through scientific papers and discovering the concepts of “total wake time” and “sleep pressure”, she then learnt better methods of ensuring good sleep for her children. Through this, she helped other parents in the parenting support group better understand their children’s sleep patterns by analysing the data that they collect and breaking it down for them.
“I tracked how long my baby slept using a sleep diary and baby monitor,” she explained. “This wasn’t difficult for me and my husband who used to be zookeepers at a night safari.”
In her heartfelt conclusion, she noted that her journey has been tough in many ways: “I had a parent tell me if I didn’t solve her toddler’s sleep issue she would end her life. She didn’t know I, too, was struggling with depression at that time.”
In dealing with mental health issues, Raffles Institution school counsellor Ms. Chua Kah Hwee recounted stories from her 20 years in caring for youths’ mental health.
She recalled how one of her clients wanted to pray for her. She thought, “This is not right; it should not be him praying for me. Oh no, the power balance is reversed now, what should I do?” He was the one going through rough times and yet, he selflessly thought of her.
Although she is paid to do this job, she shared how her heart is “open and free of charge”. The fact also remains, however, that she is still a human who “does not have it right all the time” and does feel “emotional alongside her students when they tell her stories of distress or pain.” Sometimes, when she is too emotionally drained, she has to engage in self-care activities.
She thinks of all her clients and frequently wonders how they are doing. But having someone think of her for a change surprised her. In the end, she graciously accepted the boy’s offer and allowed him to pray for her.
Other speakers who spoke on social issues included Mr. Chun Soon Kon (RI ‘15), who explained how he founded Worksider through “The Butterfly Impact”, Mr. Alvin Kwek (RJC ‘91), who analysed “Reimagining Education in the New Normal” and Mr Lee Kahhow, who gave insights on what the future of education might look like with no/low-code. Finally, Theodoric Chew (RI ‘12) proposed how his app, “Intellect”, could be a solution to the “mental health pandemic”.
The remaining speakers’ talks mainly focused on interesting stories from their personal lives.
Kareena Shanice Kumar (22S06E) gave a fascinating insight into game theory and thinking in terms of strategic decision-making that “makes choices that maximise personal utility.” She explained how game theory can lead us to “logically rationalise why stakeholders make the decisions they do”, using the scenario of brinkmanship as a case study.
Essentially, by assigning a numerical value to each possible decision and choosing the path with highest numerical outcome, we can choose the path with the highest benefits. In the case of brinkmanship, a strategy where you “make use of a threat and if successful in its purpose, the action is not actually carried out”, game theory analyses the decision-making process in a sequential manner. What this means is that we can check how and why decisions are being made in response to the other party’s moves — in brinkmanship, decisions are made in response to a move posing a high amount of threat.
“A lot of people wondered about the accuracy of the 14-14 point call in the Asian Games finals… well I believe the call in the show (twenty five twenty one) was wrong… but don’t quote me on that!”Denyse Chan (21S07A)
As an experienced national fencer, Denyse Chan (21S07A) has accumulated many life lessons from fencing. From planning and anticipating rationally and effectively, to not respecting your opponents too much, her sharing gave listeners an insight into a SEA Games’ gold medallist’s life.
Afterwards, Zu Lilian (23S03P) highlighted “The Dark Side Behind Your Pinterest Feed” and dangers of escapism while Ilangovan Harishiga (23S03P) gave a passionate speech on passionless people. Last but not least, Teo Sui Leng (22S06M) detailed her journey in developing an entrepreneurial mindset.
This event would not have been possible without its organising committee. As the Head of Production, Alyssa Boo (22S06G) recounted the immense satisfaction as the event concluded: “It was really nerve-wracking during the conference as I had to oversee many different aspects such as switching the spotlights, recording the session and screening the videos during introduction and breaks.”
With many listeners, such as Liu Peixuan (22S03C), taking detailed notes during the speakers’ talks and giving positive feedback about the event, it is safe to say that TEDxYouth@RafflesInstitution has left a lasting impact. Raffles Press congratulates the success of this year’s event and wishes all the best for all future TEDxRI events!
Speakers’ TEDx talks will be uploaded here progressively.