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Engineers should learn to create unique solutions, think like MacGyver

Engineering has always been one of the fundamental pillars of the growth of nations. From infrastructure to manufacturing, engineers transform ideas and research into physical reality. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, the Republic was built “on the backs of engineers” (“S’pore built on backs of engineers, but lacks cutting-edge capabilities now: PM”; July 2), and this fact will remain true into the future as well.

Willson Deng, chairman and founder, Singapore Manufacturing Consortium

Engineering has always been one of the fundamental pillars of the growth of nations. From infrastructure to manufacturing, engineers transform ideas and research into physical reality. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, the Republic was built “on the backs of engineers” (“S’pore built on backs of engineers, but lacks cutting-edge capabilities now: PM”; July 2), and this fact will remain true into the future as well.

When Mr Lee spoke of a lack of cutting-edge capabilities, it is also important to highlight the need for ingenuity and innovation within engineering.

This means engineers need to start thinking like MacGyver, the fictional secret agent known for his ingenious escapes from life-or-death situations.

Universities and polytechnics will need to supplement their traditional lectures with ones that are “out-of-the-box”. Push and encourage students to look at real-world problems, and develop unique and wild solutions with little to no guidance.

A great engineer is someone who is well-versed in the fundamentals found in textbooks, but has also been given the freedom to be unorthodox and search for solutions where most would not typically look.

Cutting-edge engineering occurs when people are tasked to solve issues for which there are no known solutions. This means it cannot be solely learnt from a textbook nor taught by a professor. The type of engineers Mr Lee speaks of are those who are well trained, but are then forced to develop solutions with only a rubber band and paper clip, just like MacGyver.

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