Ong Hsien Min is currently an undergraduate studying Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London. He completed his A-Levels at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar and will be graduating in 2024. This personal statement was part of his successful application to Imperial College London, UCL, University of Manchester and University of Bristol.
My first encounter with an engineering problem was during my High School’s Carnival. The highlight was to have a dunk tank, but the budget was insufficient to rent a commercial one. Being in charge, I refused to drop the idea. Instead, I built a machine with similar running concepts to serve the same purpose but within the budget. With just several pulleys, bolts and buckets, I was able to convert my creativity into a working machine which became the most popular game at the Carnival. My daily struggle to wake up relying on the ineffective traditional alarm clocks led me to devise a program using a micro-servo with an Arduino to act as an artificial finger to switch on my light, which proved to be more effective in waking me up. These experiences not only spurred my constant problem-solving habits, but made me realise that I have the skills and creativity to create solutions to solve practical problems. I believe engineering is the most suitable subject for me to further refine these traits to benefit as many people as possible.
During an attachment at Timeless Green, one of the largest solar Photovoltaic developers in South East Asia, I was able to gain an insight into their largest ground mounted solar farm. To experience first-hand seeing how sunlight is harnessed and converted to large amounts of electrical energy for commercial use was exciting. I see the potential of solar energy to be one of the main sources of clean energy needed to meet rising demand. After being introduced to the different types of solar systems, I realised how current lithium-ion batteries have significantly lowered the barriers of being off-grid. However, I feel the need to address the underlying ageing problem of the lithium-ion battery. After many charge cycles, the pacifying layer deposited on the anode increases, leading to a significant capacity loss of the battery. The cost of battery replacement makes it challenging for developing countries such as Malaysia. To overcome this, I see the promise of flywheel energy storage.
This mechanical device stores energy in the form of rotational kinetic energy. The motor that drives the rotor when energy is supplied also acts as a generator, converting kinetic energy back to electricity. Magnetically levitated bearings are implemented alongside a vacuum enclosure to keep drag at its minimum. It is interesting to see how crucial classroom physics concepts were applied to produce an efficient and successful flywheel. Besides not being affected by the depth of discharge, the dispensation of a long charge-discharge cycle puts flywheels at an advantage to batteries. The general belief is that flywheel technology is only suited for short term application and grid support. However, I believe that through further research and development, it has the potential of being used as a long-term energy storage, especially for developing countries to be completely independent of the grid as well as eradicating the ‘duck curve’. It is this desire to be part of the future advancement of renewable energy that pushes me to venture into mechanical engineering.
In the Oxbridge Engineering Workshop at KTJ, the objective was to build a crane to lift loads across a distance within a set period of time, with limited resources. I was able to apply my hands-on skills coupled with knowledge regarding centre of mass to ensure that the crane would not topple while lifting the load. With some basic knowledge of Arduino, I assisted a group in programming a traffic light system to make the simulation more realistic. Through this, I developed the expertise of teamwork, working within rule constraints, and meeting time deadlines, all of which are essential skills to thrive as an undergraduate and an engineer.
As a mechanical engineer, I will be able to play a pivotal role in moving Malaysia to sustainable developed nation status. I am looking forward to fulfilling this meaningful endeavour.
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