News Details | 22-Jul-2011

Near-death experience ends in robot innovation

Ideas like this vie for awards at NTU's young entrepreneurs contest

A close shave with death underwater – not once but three times – inspired the creation of a remote-controlled robot that can conduct underwater ship repair and maintenance.  This innovation can potentially save companies thousands of dollars and, not to mention, human lives.

Up on land is an equally inspiring creation – a modified conventional laser printer that can fabricate 3D parts, enabling small and medium enterprises to produce physical models and even production parts of high quality, but with a lower price tag and faster too.

These are just some of the exciting new ideas that young entrepreneurs are bringing to reality, thanks to public and private funding support, and guidance from experienced business leaders.

Fifteen teams of budding entrepreneurs are today vying for the top six places in the semi-final round of the Business Challenge, held at The POD, National Library Building.

The competition, organised by Nanyang Technological University’s Nanyang Technopreneurship Centre, is designed to encourage young aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their new business ideas into reality.  A record number of 230 teams entered the competition, which is into its second year. brings together a powerful combination of funding support and expert mentorship for aspiring entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 26. The competition goes beyond a typical business plan competition to enable newbie entrepreneurs to develop and commercialise their innovative business ideas by giving participating teams early-stage capital and mentoring advice.  In this way, the competition helps them speed up the introduction of new products and services to the market. 

During the quarter-final round, the fifteen teams were given three months and each received $15,000, which they used as a seed fund to build and improve on their prototype, while exploring the commercial viability of their product or service ideas.  Teams also benefited from being mentored by a select group of Singapore-based entrepreneurs, NTU professors and alumni, and industry partners.  

Such funding and guidance are a dream come true for NTU engineering student Mr Steve Ang, also the co-founder of L.A.C. Marine, and his secondary schoolmate and business partner Mr Zack Lee.  They have come up with the idea of remote-controlled prototype robot that can be used for all kinds of underwater ship repair and maintenance. This would help eliminate the dangers of diver mishaps and provide commercial ships with more comprehensive hull repair and maintenance services.  This is a welcome development for commercial divers like Mr Lee, a former diver himself who had a close shave with death three times while doing underwater maintenance work in the past.  

Touching on his experience during the competition thus far, Mr Ang, from NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said, “The competition has helped us immensely, especially the training workshops and funding.  Our mentor, Mr Nicholas Ang who is from the shipping industry, has also been most helpful and enabled us to open doors and to know more people in the industry.” 

Asked about the benefits of their innovation, Mr Chua Zhi Wei, another NTU mechanical engineering student and co-founder of 4Loop said, “SMEs would usually go to manufacturers to have a 3D model produced for their physical prototypes, tooling components or production parts. With our modified laser printer, these companies can readily fabricate quality 3D parts very much the same as what you would get from an engineering firm, while also saving time and money. So we're confident that there's a market out there for this new technology.”

Associate Professor Hooi Den Huan, Director of Nanyang Technopreneurship Center said, “Our goal for this competition is to promote entrepreneurship and innovation among young people in Singapore. We hope that by investing in our highly talented young people with capital and professional advice in the early stages of their business development, we can help them start off on the right foot, as they embark on their new venture.”

After today’s semi-final, the top six teams will have two months to begin commercialisation and market penetration. They will also get to receive further funding of $50,000 – under SPRING Singapore’s Young Entrepreneurs Scheme for Startups (YES! Startups) –  to ramp up their company’s operations and marketing plans.

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Media contact:

Feisal Abdul Rahman
Senior Assistant Director (Media Relations)
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: (65) 6790 6687


About Nanyang Technological University 


About NTU’s Nanyang Technopreneurship Centre

The Nanyang Technopreneurship Center (NTC) was established in January 2001 as a joint venture between Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Economic Development Board (EDB), Singapore.

As a multi-disciplinary university-level centre, NTC serves as the focal point of technology entrepreneurship development within the University and the region, where creativity and entrepreneurship will thrive, leading to the creation of new business ventures that will provide the new engine of growth for Singapore.

For more information, visit  

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