Students working

This semester’s Catalyst students are working on all sorts of projects. While all help students develop the SAS desired student learning outcomes, the paths to these outcomes are as varied as the students’ interests! 

Senior Aime Fukada has found the Catalyst project so rewarding she has signed up for the class not once but three times! A self-described foodie, cook, and baker, as well as an IASAS swimmer, she credits her father with the idea for her project: a cookbook for student athletes. “During my first Catalyst class, I developed and tested a bunch of healthy recipes that young people would like,” she explains. Mentored by the school nutritionist, Aime settled on forty recipes and created a draft of about seventy pages. 

Not ready to leave it at that, Aime signed up for Catalyst again to focus on revision, layout, and graphic design, soliciting input from teachers and students. “The most amazing moment for me came when I met with an SAS visiting author who said I should start selling my project right now by contacting lawyers and publishers,” Aime recalls. “Suddenly it became ‘real,’ and I could picture an actual book!” Singapore publisher Epigram Books expressed interest, and Aime plans to spend next semester preparing the book for publication, hopefully with an editor or publisher as a mentor. She expects the final result, a hardback cookbook entitled From the Hapa Kouzina, to be published in late April or May.

“I love Catalyst because you learn real-world skills,” Aime says. “Besides learning about nutrition, creative writing, and book design, I have learned to network and put myself out there in emails and in person. The hardest thing was persevering through all those non-responses or refusals. In school, the adults focus on you all the time, but in the outside world they see you as just another young person trying to get their attention. It’s good to learn that most people won’t respond to your emails, won’t make themselves available whenever you want, and you have to keep going until someone does!” Aime says she would counsel students new to the program to go beyond their comfort zones to network, and to set clear goals and strict time-management rules. “The most important thing is to find something you’re passionate about, something that will keep you going,” she says. “Everyone has something they love, but sometimes you don’t realize it could become your project. Once you figure that out, you can make it impactful, fun, and rewarding.” 

Senior James Quek has had the robotics bug since he was little, starting with Lego Mindstorms kits and moving on to robotics classes when he entered SAS last year. Catalyst has given him the time and funding to take this interest to a new level as he designs a biomechatronic assistive limb exoskeleton. Specifically, he is creating a right arm aid that will move with a person’s real arm to assist in bearing heavy loads. “I’m aiming for 125 percent of my current capabilities, meaning the limb will be able to let someone like me lift a quarter more weight than they could naturally,” he explains. “I am designing the exoskeleton, the biosensors, the controller, and the actuators that will allow the human and the exoskeleton to work together.”

James had to search hard to find a mentor for this project, but finally, through a classmate’s father, he connected with Yale NUS Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Yu Haoyong. “I went to Yale NUS for one visit, and we’ve also had phone meetings and email exchanges. It’s been really helpful learning from Professor Yu, and I hope to take his suggestions forward next semester, when I will do Catalyst again. I’m hoping to complete this project and have a working prototype as my final product.” Asked what has been most challenging in developing the limb, James points to sourcing the materials, which are not commonly available. “I had to contact different suppliers and fabricators and keep searching for the right materials,” he says.

James expects to continue with robotics and biomechanics in college and hopefully in the work world. “This experience will definitely benefit me in the future, as I am gaining a lot of practical knowledge about this field. I was ‘optimistically skeptical’ about Catalyst when I signed up for it, but although I don’t always enjoy doing the paperwork required for the course, I really appreciate the chance it’s given me to work on a project I thought of, persevere through ups and downs, and see it through to a conclusion.” 

Catalyst projects in progress

Ana Chavez is creating a ten-minute documentary about two SAS art students and the school’s art community. She is working with a cinematography professor at Nanyang Technological University’s School of Art, Design and Media.

Zoe Adamopoulos says, “I’m setting up an online fashion brand that runs as a social enterprise for village seamstresses in Indonesia. The purpose of this company is to empower and educate women, in addition to creating a clothing line appealing to teens and young adults.”

Alex Greisinger is creating an app for students to provide feedback to building managers, and an interface for managers to prioritize this feedback. “My interest in this stemmed from seeing and hearing about the facilities problems that occur at SAS, such as faulty ACs, water in bathrooms, and dripping taps, and wanting to do something to solve them.”

Working with a neurosurgeon, Gabriella Koh plans to use Swift coding, learned in a UDemy online course, to create an app allowing doctors to calculate intracerebral hemorrhage and traumatic brain injury mortality rates. 

Mentored by the editor of an online Korean pop fan site, Vicky Zeng is exploring K-pop culture, focusing on company packaging and fan involvement. She hopes to explain the differences between international fans’ and Korean fans’ expectations of Korean pop stars. 

Using COMSOL modeling software and the Matlab programming language, Luke Zhang is creating a simulation to investigate the safety implications of microbubble nanoparticles in cancer treatments. 

Mentored by a Peranakan culture scholar, textile collector, and museum benefactor, Zoe Ong is creating a website to explain and promote this unique blend of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European traditions to international school students. 

Jefferson Portelli is writing and composing an original song, using music theory techniques. His piece will incorporate different instruments and use digital editing and recording skills. Jefferson is mentored by a local composer and musician.

Alexandria Risjad has created a jewelry line to help Indonesian victims of sexual assault and human trafficking. Working with the founder of an Indonesian clothing company, she will learn about fashion management, marketing, and distribution, at the same time contributing to a social enterprise that offers victims legal help and rehabilitation services. 

Will Mundy is exploring whether behavioral economics principles can be used to influence sleep behavior. Mentored by a healthcare industry professional, he is designing an experiment on sleep behavior that will form the basis of his research project.

Cosette Koh is creating a food science course that she hopes SAS will adopt, with units on nutraceutical science, food chemistry and taste perception, and food modification and sustainable agricultural techniques. SAS Executive Director of Curriculum and Assessment Steve Meade is advising her.

Wanling Goh is creating a guidebook to the SAS rainforest and plant nursery, aimed at our elementary school students. Mentored by a National Institute of Education expert in outdoor and environmental education, she also plans to host a “nature day” event to help our young students learn more about the rainforest and Singapore’s environment. 

Advised by a professional urban planner and designer, Matthew Greisinger is comparing the urban development of two public spaces: Malacca City in Malaysia and Clarke Quay in Singapore. He hopes to find ways in which Clarke Quay can adopt successful strategies used in Malacca City. 

Catalyst Project Mentors
One important lesson Catalyst teaches students is how to take advantage of expert advice. Networking to find an appropriate mentor is one of the students’ first and most important tasks. We are fortunate that the SAS community gives us a large pool of parents and friends with myriad skills and experiences who are willing to mentor our students. To avoid overloading our teachers, we stipulate that they may not be mentors, but students may approach non-teaching SAS staff (in administration, support services, food services, and contracted coaching, for example) as well as friends and colleagues of parents, friends of friends, and experts unconnected to SAS. Mentors receive support and guidance from the Center for Innovation. Working with a professional on a specific project is an unusual and valuable opportunity for any high school student, and we sincerely thank all those who have put up their hands to be mentors for our Catalyst program. 

“This is my first experience as a Catalyst mentor, and it’s been fantastic! I am really enjoying Cosette’s enthusiasm and diligence as she works to design a food science course, as well as her commitment to encouraging more girls into higher-level science courses. I hope I am helping her focus her efforts, understand curriculum design requirements, and keep her project on course. In return, she is helping me experience what academic life is like for our students, what they are learning, and how courses like Catalyst add to their education and build their skills for future challenges.”
– Steve Meade, SAS Executive Director of Curriculum and Assessment and Catalyst mentor


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