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Sunday November 1, 2009
By ALYCIA LIM and CINDY POHPhotos By SAM THAM
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.
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.
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’ ”.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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,
2nd Prize: RM4,000, computer for school
Lower secondary: Team Johor
Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar, Johor Baru
R. Keshan Reddy, Justin Low, Muhd Syafiq
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
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
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
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
“The students performed satisfactorily,
but more could have been done.
Participants sometimes lacked creativity
and analytical skills during the
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“The first seven questions were a killer!” – a participant commenting on the multiple
“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
Describe your Mighty
Minds journey in
It was awesome! – Lim William
Success through endeavour! – Yeo Zhi
Pretty freaking awesome! – Luke Ellee
Exhilarating, fun, pleasure-inducing
– Christopher Donovan
Make schools proud – Nurul Atiqah
Tried our best – Jervis Ong
We’ll be back – Lee Zhun Jing
Oh. My. God!– Tung Jit Sun
Which team displayed
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
My team. We rock, and we had fun! – Chan Xian
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
Who is the walking
I don’t know why, but
people keep calling me
that. – Satria Asyraf
Every participant. If
they were not walking
would they be here?
– Christopher Donovan
Mr Alagesan. Love him, love him.
Muah!!! – Muhammad Faris Zulkifle
Urm, me? – Wan Nadira Hanim Mohd Zaiman
Are you up to the challenge? Try your
hand at these questions from the
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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