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DSTA – Engineering A Career In Defence R&D

dsta_allanAllan Law forges his passion with the DSTA Scholarship.

As a young boy, Allan was always ­dreaming of ways to bring machines to ‘life’ by endowing them with intelligence and self-sufficiency. But what really ­crystallised his dreams was a Lego robotics kit that he received in secondary school. Countless hours were spent using the kit to create small, customisable robots that could perform various functions. According to Allan, ‘That was when I knew that I wanted to study Engineering. In fact, I was so certain that I decided to pursue Mechatronics in Ngee Ann Polytechnic instead of enrolling in a junior college.’

Armed with his Diploma, Allan was looking for a career that would enable him to further his passion when he came across the DSTA Scholarship. ‘At the time, I also read about how the SAF was in the midst of its Third Generation transformation – a push to modernise its technologies and capabilities. It seemed really exciting and I knew that I wanted to be part of this transformation. This was why I decided to go for the DSTA Scholarship as it would give me the opportunity to study in a prestigious overseas university, and open the door to a career in DSTA, DSO or the other ­organisations in the Defence Technology Community.* (See footnote on page 18)

Indeed, Allan spent his ­undergraduate years at the University of Illinois at ­Urbana-Champaign furthering his ­passion for Engineering. For his final year ­project, ­Allan worked with a team of graduate ­students to model the basic cognitive ­functions and motor skills of a child in ­order to develop a humanoid robot called the iCub. Allan also worked on programming the robot to reach out and grab objects ­using stereo imaging. He recalled, ‘The ­project team consisted of students from different countries and backgrounds. They also had different ideas and approaches to the concept of artificial intelligence. ­Working with them was an eye-opening experience!’

A Career In DSO
Today, Allan is a proud member of DSO’s Guided Systems Division where he designs high speed computationally ­intensive ­modules that use state-of-the-art ­electronics, and can operate in the harshest of environments. In a typical day at DSO, ­Allan can be found reading up on ­emerging technologies in his area of work; meeting with other project teams to ­ascertain their requirements for electronics modules; building circuitry as well as troubleshooting his designs.

When asked why he chose to join DSO after graduating, Allan said, ‘Knowing that my designs would not just be conceptual, but actually developed as part of a bigger system that is used to make a difference to our national security is the reason I chose DSO.’

Although Allan faced a daunting ­learning curve when he joined DSO, he is thankful for having colleagues who are always willing to help by sharing their ­experience. He also appreciates the strong learning and development culture at DSO. Besides providing Allan with the ­flexibility to research and test new concepts for ­electronics module designs, DSO has given him the opportunity to grow professionally through various courses conducted both within and outside DSO, allowing him to stay at the forefront in his area of work. ‘The culture of openness, knowledge sharing and development makes learning so much easier and more rewarding!’

To prospective scholars, Allan had this to say, ‘You must be passionate in what you believe in and have a hunger for knowledge. This drive will guide you in the ­selection of the modules that you take in your university, as well as the area you choose to ­explore as a career in the defence ­community.’

DSTA Scholarship
Age: 27
Now: Research Engineer, Guided ­Systems Division, DSO National ­Laboratories
Attained: BEng (Electrical & Computer Engineering), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
From: Ngee Ann Polytechnic