Sunday November 1, 2009

Awesome threesomes

After seven months of battling it out, the meeting of minds came to an end, with much fanfare, but not before the finalists took the challenge to a whole new level.

IT WAS a weekend of forging friendships, learning and bonding for participants of the RHB-The Star Mighty Minds 2009 national finals.

Apart from vying for the grand prize of RM6,000 and a desktop computer and printer for their school, these 84 upper and lower secondary participants had the time of their lives putting their knowledge to the test, solving out-of-the-box questions and creative puzzles, while getting to know their peers from different states.

From the very first challenge in Malacca held in late March, the contest had swept across all 14 states before culminating in the national grand finals at Palm Garden Hotel, Putrajaya, last weekend.

Team Selangor’s Tung Jit Sun putting the final touches to his water level detection system.

Ice-breaking session

Preparing for the exciting weekend ahead, all teams arrived at the serene RHB training centre in Bangi on Friday night, some clad in smartly-ironed uniforms, while others in comfortable travel wear.

After checking in, a briefing session was held, where a few students had the chance to share a little bit about themselves with the other participants.

Seated in a lecture hall, the atmosphere was a little tense, until Sarawak’s Christopher Donovan from SMK Batu Lintang, Kuching, broke the ice by volunteering himself up on stage.

A typical smart-aleck who answered every question with a question, he elicited this remark from RHB Group Corporate Communications senior manager Mastura Adnan, who was emcee for the night: “surely, your teacher must feel very challenged with a student like this!”

And with that, the ice was broken as waves of laughter echoed throughout the hall.

By dinner time, friendships were forged, as some were seen exchanging contact numbers.

Day one

Strutting in to the elaborately set up hotel ballroom at 8am, the teams of three members each confidently found their seats, mentally prepared and ready for the big day ahead.

Unlike the state challenges, for the multiple choice questions this time, all participants had to answer using individual keypads, and team members were seated separately.

The audience broke into excited whispers when quizmaster K. Sivashankar asked the question about a bird with slick acrobatic moves that included upward, downward, backward and forward flight. When the correct answer – the hummingbird – came on the screen, jubilation was written all over the faces of many participants.

After the first round, the teams had to undergo a hands-on challenge, which required them to build a model with commonly-found objects such as broomsticks, wooden sticks and mineral water bottles.

The lower-secondary students were asked to construct a “ferris wheel that could complete a minimum of two rotations non-manually”, while the upper-secondary category students had to build an “electrical system that is able to alert the occupants of a house to a drop in water level from ‘safe level’ to ‘critical level’ ”.

Wheel power: Team Sarawak demonstrating their ferris wheel.

While most teams worked quickly and efficiently for the first hour, panic rose amongst a few groups in the countdown before the buzzer went off at the end of the two hours.

Yet, when it was time to present their models, almost all the teams put up a confident front, expounding on the Science principles applied on their models and demonstrating their functionality.

For lower-secondary students M. Eqhwammedzadt, Michelle Eng and Marilyn Rasiah of SMK Bahang Penampang, the challenge was their final chance to redeem themselves.

Scoring the lowest points in the first round of the objective challenge, team leader Marilyn, whose grandmother flew in from Sabah to cheer them on, said, “We did not give up hope because we knew that teamwork was our strength.”

Sure enough, the team was ecstatic when they were announced as the third best team that day.

“We were very happy because this proved that determination and a positive attitude paid off!” quipped Michelle.

By the end of the first day, the five top teams from each category were selected to go head to head again the next day for the finals.

The battle continues

Unlike the state challenges, the national finals was action-packed, leaving only the best of the best standing tall.

Battle stations: Lower secondary teams battling it out during the buzzer quiz.

After a more in-depth presentation of their models with the use of multimedia, these top five teams had to face off in a nail-biting buzzer quiz that tested their mental alertness as well as understanding of subject matter.

In fear of losing points for giving the wrong answer, teams were initially hesitant to press the buzzer, but they were soon swept up in the momentum of the game, and racing against each other to be the first to hit the buzzers.

For the upper-secondary students, the pressure was on, as the challenge was witnessed by Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who in his speech had said, “I would describe this event a great ‘intellectual feast’ and I can feel the high voltage of energy being generated even from behind this podium.”

He had earlier viewed some of the hands-on models and given away prizes to the winners of the lower-secondary category.

The teams then moved on to the minds-on challenge which required students to solve a creative real-life poser in writing. The nine non-finalist teams from each category had the opportunity to go on a bus tour around Putrajaya, before returning to give support and watch their peers in the finals.

Mightiest of Minds

When it came time for the announcement of results, some teammates gripped each others’ hands tightly and closed their eyes, while others bowed their heads seemingly in prayer.

Champions for both the upper and lower-secondary categories were from Penang.

The first words that came to these young brainiacs were to thank those who had helped them.

Nathaniel Measias Zecharias from SMK Bukit Jambul said, “We would like to thank God, our parents, teachers, and friends for their support. We have learnt a lot from this competition.”

Team leader Yeoh Sing Ming said, “we pushed ourselves despite being very tired and it was all worth it in the end.”

Daring to be different: First runnersup - Team Johor - (from left) Justin Low, Muhd Syafiq Zaini and R. Keshan Reddy, with their ferris wheel built to “overhang” the sea

As for Form Two champions Lim Jian Hong, Choon Zi Yang and Ivan Ang Jie Xiong from Chung Ling High School, clearly, being a year younger than most of their rivals was no handicap.

Zi Yang said, “We really want to thank The Star and RHB for organising this competition. It has given us the opportunity to gain so much experience.”

First runners-up from Kedah’s SMJK Keat Hwa – Tang Han Yuan – said, “Thanks for giving us so much money. I will probably buy a new handphone.” Teammate Ng Say Cheong could not agree more, adding, “I would probably get myself a laptop.”

Moral support

It was the support of their family and friends that made the finals all the more meaningful to the participants.

RHB Bank Berhad chairman and RHB Capital Berhad director Tan Sri Azlan Zainol said: “The support we received from teachers and parents have been tremendous and we are humbled by the letters received expressing support and gratitude for our efforts.”

Mohammed Zaiman Mohd Nor, the father of Malacca’s Kolej Yayasan Saad student Wan Nadira Hanim Mohd Zaiman, said that it was at events like this where moral support was crucial.

Mohammed Zaiman shared his theory, adding that “they (his children) shouldn’t be feeling the pressure too much, as I always tell them that we will be enjoying only 5% of the outcome, while they should be enjoying the other 95%.”

Meanwhile, Margaret Lim was seen supporting her son Aaron Yeoh from SMK Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur, throughout the two-day competition.

“As parents, we need to be supportive and I try my best to be involved in Aaron’s activities whenever I can,” she said.

It was also bonding time for brothers, Justin Low Zhi Herng from Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar, Johor Baru, and his older brother Nethanel Low Zhi Liang. “I came all the way from Singapore to support my brother,” said Nethanel, a second year student in Republic Polytechnic, Singapore.

While Nethanel did not expect his brother to come this far in the competition, he certainly had faith in Justin to excel. “I think my brother is confident and a good team leader,” he said.

Justin’s father, Edward Low, added that while he hoped that his son would win, it was not a priority.

“What is more important is the exposure that Justin gains at the competition,” he said.

So many stories to share, yet so little time. While in the past there would be talks of writing to each other, these tech-savvy students were quick to exchange Facebook and Twitter contacts.

But for Aaron, the thought of keeping in touch with his fellow peers came way in advance.

Just after twittering updates on his status at the competition, Aaron said, “I’ve opened a Facebook account for the participants long before the finals and I hope there will be more interaction amongst us.”

Mightiest of them all: Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin with lower secondary champs from Chung Ling High School, Penang. Joining the jubilating boys – (from left) Ivan Ang, Lim Jian Hong and Choon Zi Yang – are The Star ’s Datin Linda Ngiam and RHB’s Tan Sri Azlan Zainol.

Embracing 1Malaysia

As for the Sabahans from SMK Bahang Penampang, the experience was also a cultural eye-opener.

M. Eqhwammedzadt said, “I notice that people here have very inconsistent sleeping hours. They sleep very late, wake up early, and then even after they wake up, they may go back to sleep again. But in Sabah, we sleep early and once we wake up, we take a shower straight away and don’t go back to sleep.”

Such encounters were surely not the only one, which goes to show that even within the same country, there is so much to learn and share with each other.

As said by The Star’s group managing director and chief executive officer Datin Linda Ngiam in her speech, “We are celebrating 1Malaysia here with the cream of the crop hailing from different backgrounds and different parts of the country, but all with a common purpose to excel and succeed.”

Photographs were taken, laughter shared, and most importantly, the RHB-The Star Mighty Minds Challenge national finals 2009 not only drew the mightiest minds from around the country, but also opened doors to friendship, and many more possibilities for these talented young individuals.

Also present at the event were Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom, Education deputy director-general (General Professional Development) Datin Asariah Mior Shaharudin and Selangor education director Dr Zahri Aziz, RHB Banking Group group managing director Datuk Tajuddin Atan, RHB Banking Group chief operating officer Norazzah Sulaiman, RHB Investment Bank chairman Datuk Abdullah Mat Noh and Star Publications (M) Bhd executive editor Leanne Goh. The competition was jointly organised by RHB Banking Group and Star Publications (M) Bhd.


1st Prize: RM6,000, computer and printer for school

Lower secondary: Team Penang Chung Ling High School, Penang Lim Jian Hong, Ivan Ang, Choon Zi Yang

Upper secondary: Team Penang SMK Bukit Jambul, Penang Yeoh Seng Ming, Nathaniel Zacharias, Jeanette Siah

2nd Prize: RM4,000, computer for school

Penang rules! Upper secondary brainiacs (from left) Nathaniel Zacharias, Yeoh Seng Ming and Jeanette Siah from SMK Bukit Jambul.

Lower secondary: Team Johor Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar, Johor Baru R. Keshan Reddy, Justin Low, Muhd Syafiq Zaini

Upper secondary: Team Kedah SMJK Keat Hwa, Alor Star Ng Say Cheong, Yeap Jher Hau, Tang Han Yuan

3rd Prize: RM2,000, computer for school

Lower secondary: Team Malacca Kolej Yayasan Saad, Malacca Muhd Nasrullah, Muhd Afif Hizami, Shubaib Nawawi

Upper secondary: Team Kuala Lumpur SMK Methodist, Jalan Hang Jebat, KL Eric Khong, Caleb Wong, Anthony Yew

4th Prize: RM600

Lower secondary: Team Kuala Lumpur SMK Taman Desa, KL R. Vaishnavi, S. Shaktheesh Kumar, Aaron Yeoh

Upper secondary: Team Pahang SMK Sultan Abu Bakar, Kuantan Leong Yau Soon, Eric Phua, Yong Sue Wern

5th prize: RM450

Lower secondary: Team Sabah SMK Bahang Penampang, Kota Kinabalu M. Eqhwammedzadt, Michelle Eng, Marilyn Rasiah

Upper secondary: Team Perak SMK Methodist, Tg Malim Michael Goh, Gan Cong Jun, G. Vikhnapriya

6th to 14th prize winners received a RM100 book voucher each

What the judges say

A. Alagesan

The Star’s Physics and Chemistry columnist for over five years, Alagesan is the RHB-The Star Mighty Minds chief judge. He is also the brains behind the setting of the state hands-on challenges, and practically all the questions for the finals.

“The students performed satisfactorily, but more could have been done. Participants sometimes lacked creativity and analytical skills during the hands-on challenge. “However, the teams have all done well and their efforts are commendable. It is not easy to build something in just two hours, especially at their age. “The upper-secondary Perak team and lower-secondary Johor team displayed out-of-the-box thinking, with the models they constructed.”

Datin Prof Dr Khatijah Yusof

Judges (from left) Dr Cheah, Alagesan and Prof Khatijah.

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) deputy secretary general (Science), Prof Khatijah was formerly Universiti Putra Malaysia’s (UPM) deputy vice-chancellor (Academic and International Affairs). She has been lecturing at UPM since 1983 and has received several patents and awards, both locally and internationally.

“The competition is a good way to test the students’ problem- solving and leadership skills, teamwork, time management, strategies, and mental alertness. I think the competition should be promoted as part of the curriculum in schools.”

Assoc Prof Dr Cheah Yoke Kqueen

Dr Cheah is the head of the molecular biology and bioinformatics unit in the department of biomedical science at the faculty of medicine and health sciences in UPM. He has been awarded a myriad of accolades for his inventions, researches and innovation.

“The challenge is very interesting as it not only benefits the development of students but also stimulates their thinking and creativity. “Some of the criteria that we were looking for in the handson challenge were whether they met the objectives and the durability of their models, and I think they did well on that part.”

Memorable moments


“The first seven questions were a killer!” – a participant commenting on the multiple choice questions.

“You sure it’s gonna stick?” – a participant in doubt of the “capability” of masking tape.

“You’re wasting my precious time,” – a student half-jokes after receiving applause during the five minutes allocated for oral presentation.

“Even if I don’t score straight As, I can still make it as a fashion model.” – Eric Khong

“If there was a Ms Congeniality award, we would give it to Team Sabah’s Marilyn Rasiah.” – Upper secondary’s Team Kedah

“If only we had built an elevator for the people to reach the ferris wheel, we probably would have made it to the finals.” – Luqman Hakim Kamel

“The objective challenge was a lot harder than PMR.” - M. Eqhwammedzadt

“My mum called me five times from Kota Kinabalu airport to KLIA.” - Michelle Eng

Take three

Describe your Mighty Minds journey in three words.

It was awesome! – Lim William

Success through endeavour! – Yeo Zhi Ming

Pretty freaking awesome! – Luke Ellee Nyanti

Exhilarating, fun, pleasure-inducing – Christopher Donovan

Make schools proud – Nurul Atiqah Ruslan

Tried our best – Jervis Ong

We’ll be back – Lee Zhun Jing

Oh. My. God!– Tung Jit Sun

Team Malacca (from left) Sara Ruzanna Yatim Salim, Wan Nadira Hanim Mohd Zaiman and Nadia Elena Nor Azlan.

Team players

Which team displayed amazing teamwork?

Chung Ling High School, Penang. They may be “skinny”, but their cooperation is unbeatable. – Yeo Zhi Ming

The lower secondary Sabah team. They discussed and presented their model very well. – Woon Yoke Yee

My team. We rock, and we had fun! – Chan Xian Yao

Our team. Our bond is apparent and knowing each other’s weaknesses and strengths really helped us overcome unexpected troubles. – Wan Nadira Hanim Mohd Zaiman

Whiz kid

Who is the walking encyclopaedia?

I don’t know why, but people keep calling me that. – Satria Asyraf Yahya

Every participant. If they were not walking encyclopaedias, why would they be here? – Christopher Donovan

Mr Alagesan. Love him, love him. Muah!!! – Muhammad Faris Zulkifle

Urm, me? – Wan Nadira Hanim Mohd Zaiman

The buzz ...

Are you up to the challenge? Try your hand at these questions from the buzzer quiz:

1) Ku Embong was born on the 16th day of the ninth month in the year 2005. Very often, his father was unable to celebrate his birthday with him because he was actually at work. However, from 2010 onwards, he will not have this problem anymore. Why?

2) The diagram above shows six bowls P, Q, R, S, T and U placed in a row on a table. The bowls P, Q and U are half-filled with water and each contains a fish. The other three R, S and T are empty. Your challenge is to change the pattern whereby each bowl containing fish alternates with an empty bowl. You are only allowed to move and manipulate one bowl. The bowl that is moved should not be returned to the original position.


1) It will be a public holiday in conjunction with Malaysia Day.

2) Water and the fish from bowl P is poured completely into bowl S. Then, empty bowl P is placed on the right of bowl U.


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