When it comes to decorating our workspaces, some of us go with family photos while others choose personal mementos. But for Jodie Kwan, an Engineer with the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX), drones and wheeled robots are the perfect desktop accessories, and a constant reminder of the envelope-pushing mandate of her team at HTX’s Trials & Experimentation Programme Management Centre (TEPMC).
Having joined HTX in November 2020, Jodie is one of the newest members of TEPMC’s Q-Team. Named after “Q,” the tech whiz who provided James Bond with all his cool gizmos, Q-Team members draw on various S&T disciplines to rapidly prototype solutions that support the Home Team’s mission. “Basically, we specialise in looking at real-world problems that aren’t easily cracked by more traditional modes of working,” explained Jodie.
A Great Start in Innovation
Daniel Craig’s James Bond may have quipped that, “Youth is no guarantee of innovation,” in the movie Skyfall, but on the Q-Team, a fresh perspective is just one of the qualities that has allowed Jodie to immerse herself fully in the problem-solving process.
Though she’d sharpened her Engineering instincts as an undergraduate in Nanyang Technological University’s premier Renaissance Engineering Programme, Jodie was initially unsure about some of the finer points of rapid prototyping on the job.
But the nurturing environment at HTX has given her a great start as an engineer – helped no doubt by the fact that many of her equally driven team members are around her age. “The work environment here is very vibrant and lively,” she shared. “In some ways, it feels like I’ve never really left university.”
The rapid prototyping approach prioritises proposing and testing different solutions to a problem quickly. Jodie got her first taste of this innovative, high-tempo spirit on her first project at HTX, when she helped to conceptualise and test a ground robot. “I've only been with the team for three months, but I’m very thankful for the exposure I’ve gotten,” she said. “In rapid prototyping, nothing is ever a complete failure because we learn from our mistakes and apply these lessons to the next test.”
Engineering with Purpose
For Jodie, finding meaning in her work was a vital factor in her choosing to join HTX as an Associate. “Being able to contribute to Singapore’s safety and security, rather than just the bottom line of some company – I find that to be a very meaningful mission,” she explained.
Besides working on the ground robot project and customising machine learning algorithms for specific-use cases, Jodie has also applied video analytics to footage from drones and ground robots, to support fire safety enforcement efforts. “I’ve enjoyed seeing how our algorithms can help to solve real-world issues for our fellow Home Team officers,” she said. “That’s my favourite part of the job.”
Empowered to Stay Curious and Make a Difference
Jodie’s responsibilities have also given her a sense of empowerment in pushing for new ways to address the Home Team’s operational challenges. “As a female engineer at HTX, I don't feel short-changed in any way,” she said proudly.
Q-Team’s rapid prototyping paradigm also allows team members to propose and test new solutions without fear of failure. “It’s really important to stay curious,” said Jodie, “and to not be afraid to try something new, learn from our mistakes, and then try again.”
8 March 2021