2015 ASPIRE Undergradute Research Academy

2nd ASPIRE Undergraduate Research Academy

12th to 15th July 2015 at NTU


The 2nd ASPIRE Undergraduate Research Academy (UGRA) was successfully held from 12th to 15th July 2015 at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. Continuing a similar theme from the first UGRA, the theme for UGRA 2015 was Energy Challenges and Solutions in a Sustainable World.


UGRA is an enrichment program for undergraduate students who are conducting research projects in the areas of energy and sustainability at the five ASPIRE League member universities. The programme encompassed various angles of the theme, including technical, physical, environmental or business aspects, while also giving the young participants a chance to discover Singapore.


A total of 23 students participated in UGRA, including three students from HKUST, and five students each from KAIST, Tokyo Tech, Tsinghua and NTU.


Students were picked up from the airport upon their respective arrivals to Singapore and driven to their accommodation at the dormitories in NTU. Professor Er Meng Hwa, Vice-President (International Affairs), NTU, and Professor Chan Siew Hwa, Co-Director, Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) hosted a Welcome Dinner for all students on their first evening. Professor Er started the evening programme with a welcome address for all students before giving them a comprehensive introduction to Singapore and host university NTU. Since it was the first time all UGRA 2015 participants met, the situation called for ice-breaking activities. The students from NTU led all participants in a series of simple games to get to know each other through fun and laughter, and raise their level of excitement for the coming days.



The first official day saw four NTU professors delivering minilectures on various topics relating to the theme, including Offshore Renewables, Fuel Cells, Materials for Energy Devices and Passive Cooling for Buildings. Students listened intently, and good questions were asked.



Over the following two mornings, the baton was passed to the students. Each of the 23 students had a chance to present their projects to the rest of the group. This was an excellent opportunity for students not only to share their research in various areas relating to the theme, but also to hone their presentation skills in front of a multi-cultural audience,and for most of them, in an unfamiliar environment outside of their home country.





The students’ presentations were evaluated by a NTU panel of professors, headed by Professor Chan Siew Hwa. They reviewed them on the basis of the quality of the materials, the students’ individual presentation skills, and the scientific, economic, and societal impact of their research work. The panel was impressed by the overall high standard of presentations from the students, many exhibiting confidence and strong English language proficiency. Professor Chan commented that he enjoyed their presentations so much, he found it hard to believe that the presenters were just undergraduate students. Based on its evaluation, the panel awarded four prizes to students for their outstanding presentations.


Students were also introduced to some of Singapore’s efforts towards sustainability via visits to some laboratories and research facilities at NTU and CleanTech Park, as well as a rare opportunity to enter REC Solar’s plant in Singapore, which is one of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturing plants.Founded in 1996, REC is a Bluestar Elkem company with headquarters in Norway and operational headquarters in Singapore. REC is the largest European brand of solar panels, with more than 15 million high-quality panels produced and revenues of USD 680 million in 2014.




It was not all stressful presentations and site visits. The organizing team also injected fun social elements into the programme. The students got a chance to discover Singapore through a scenic ride on the Singapore Flyer and a visit to Gardens by the Bay, and they also tasted sumptuous local cuisines. The 4-day programme ended on a high note with a thrilling afternoon at the Universal Studios theme park in Singapore.




Feedback received from the participants after the event was very positive. The majority of the students felt the facilities used in UGRA2015, such as the lecture venue, the dormitory and catered meals, were appropriate and satisfactory. Students felt the programme was interesting; they liked the lab and social visits and complimented the efforts of the organizers. They would have liked a longer programme, more time for discussions or receiving feedback on their presentations, and more lectures on more topics. Some even suggested group presentations andmore opportunities to build teamwork.




This report was provided by Nanyang Technological University.