Shaping a New World

Over the summer holidays, I was blessed to involved in “shaping a new world” though my internship with ARUP Singapore. Having been away from home for the year studying with IMFSE, I did not know what to expect returning to the working world in a similar industry but a different scope; a mechanical engineer turned fire engineer. However, the experience was truly refreshing as I was not only working in an awesome environment but I could also see the relevance of the knowledge I gained the past year.

Contrary to what most people expect of internship work (print papers, data entry etc.), I was thankful that I had not only interesting and exciting tasks but my work was taken seriously too. One of the first tasks that I was entrusted to was to build flowcharts and you may think… hmm what’s so interesting about that. Well, these flowcharts are mainly for the understanding of clients and authorities on the design intent and sequence of events when there is a fire alarm. I realised that it took a lot of methodological thinking to capture the different scenarios that could arise and “leave no stone unturned”. This is especially so since most of the projects that require fire safety engineering inputs in Singapore are for performance-based solutions. The projects are not conventional and require a thorough thought process from not only design but also operation in a fire scenario. A “simple” flowchart may take many revisions to be satisfactory as different individuals and stakeholders would highlight certain areas to be enhanced. Although this may be a frustrating process, we know that every revision will contribute to a better, comprehensive design.

Another memorable task I had was to restructure a design guideline such that it is more user-friendly and relevant to a specific use.  It involves reading through many documents including various codes and standards to summarise the key points that are crucial to the building such that it would be reproducible. At times I find myself lost in the overload of information, but the challenge is to pick out what is important, question why the guidance was there in the first place and how could it be improved; something Stephen Welsh’s Fire Safety Engineering course in Edinburgh prepared me for. It was probably one of my favourite tasks as it was like my baby and honestly, I was sad to leave it (no matter how painful it was) by the end of my internship.

One of the most eye-opening tasks I had was helping with fire simulations. I would not have realised it then but I am truly thankful for our Simulations in Fire Enclosures course in Lund now. It may have been a basic course on simulations and FDS but without it, I would have been completely lost with real-world simulations that are of a larger scale and complexity. To those who will be taking the course next semester, appreciate what is taught as it will go a long way. Always remember to CHECK YOUR FDS FILE (learnt it the hard way :(…) even if you are using user-friendly software like PyroSIM. Simulations are extremely time-consuming and tedious but the satisfaction when the “pretty” and CORRECT pictures are generated is really rewarding. I will never underestimate the work that goes into simulations ever again!

There were also other tasks along the way like helping to prepare fire engineering reports, mini research work like justifying a design fire size (thanks to both fire dynamics courses in Edinburgh and Lund!) and just about anything that needed to be done, I’m game for it. However, the highlight of my internship experience is more than just work… it’s the people.

WhatsApp Image 2018-08-31 at 12.50.29 PM (1)

The fire team in ARUP Singapore may be small but mighty! Led by one of the coolest boss I’ve worked with, the team of 7 (3 of which are IMFSE alumnus!!!) are a crazy bunch of individuals with not only different vibrant personalities but also bring different skill sets to the team. It was a truly wholesome team with great camaraderie and all of them had the same drive and passion for the work they do. They are a truly inspiring team of fire engineers who made my internship experience all the more rewarding as I was motivated to learn and contribute as much as possible with them.

Thanks to Ruth for giving me the opportunity to join your awesome team and more importantly, showing me what an exemplary fire safety engineer should be. To Li Hooi (IMFSE alumni), thanks for looking out for me and making sure I get the most out of the experience. To Matthew, although you always call me “Intern”, I really appreciate how you treat me like I’m not and I enjoyed working with you on challenging projects. To Khai (IMFSE alumni), it’s weird to see you at work after knowing you as a student but hey, guess you are as good at work as you are as a student! To Pris (my FDS guru), thanks for patiently teaching me FDS and wow-ing me with your eye for detail! To Mai, thanks for being an energizer bunny and injecting happiness to everyone yet working really hard and willing to help anyone in need. To Jasper (IMFSE alumni), technically I have never worked with you but thanks for always willing to help when I needed advice and being a great support!

It is not common to find a team of individuals that are so dedicated to their craft like the team I had the honour to work with in ARUP Singapore. Not only were they extremely nice individuals, they had an admirable work ethic and a thrist for knowledge that is truly commendable. The best definition of a fire engineer I came across (and one which i truly aspire to live by) was aptly mentioned in Bart Vanbever’s speech during last year’s FSE day (FSE Day 2018 is coming soon… stay tuned!!!) where he quoted the late Margaret Law, one of ARUP’s finest fire engineers:

margaret-law-fire-engineer-arup

With that definition, I believe that the fire team in ARUP Singapore are true fire engineers living her legacy.

To build on Kate’s post, I would also strongly recommend future IMFSE students to pursue an internship during the summer break. Searching for an internship may be long and frustrating but the process of finding one is an experience in itself. It is also important to make the most out of the courses in IMFSE and look beyond just the exams and assignments as I believe it truly prepares us to be good fire engineers as long as we approach it with the right learning attitude. No matter where we end up working at or what we are working on, attitude will continue to play big role in how much we can gain from the experience as even the most mundane tasks can have a purpose if we give it a purpose. 🙂

Advertisements

Real Fire Test

The September finished with new adventures for IMFSE treasury of memories. My classmates and I spent an amazing day near Antwerp, being witnesses of car park fire imitation!

IMG_2305

IMFSE students were invited to attend the IMFSE sponsoring company FESG fire tests regarded safety level in sprinkled underground car parks. Even knowing that the site where the experiment will take place is quite far from Ghent, many of us decided to go. Because it is not an everyday opportunity to see the real fire test!

FESG is currently working on sprinklers efficiency in small car parks. Some of IMFSE graduates working in FESG were telling us the subtleties of their work, explaining the course of experiment and patiently answering all our questions.

The most common reasons of fires in car pars are overheating of engine and arsons. So several types of cars and various air and pressure conditions were tested to understand the spread of fire and sprinkler efficiency in different cases. We could say that there are three things you can watch forever: water flowing, clouds moving and the cars burning! It was really an incredible scene seeing vehicle is burning in the flames!

Of course, for security reasons we were standing quite far from the fire, so there are no good pictures or video of it… But but take our word for it – that deserves to be seen live!

bcf7b06f-0604-496f-8968-0eef7edae24f

 

 

Fuel For My Fire

[DISCLAIMER: This post has little about fire too but it starts with the letter “F(?)”]

As we start our school semester, it is often easy to be trapped in the stressful academic life; lectures, assignments and impending doom…. exams!! The first week in Ghent is nothing short of intense as it is probably the university with the most contact hours compared to my previous semesters in Lund and Edinburgh. So it is no surprise that I am soon in search of my “go-to” stress-reliever: FLOORBALL!!!

A brief intro on the sport: Floorball (or innebandy as it is called in Sweden. its country of origin) is a relative new sport which is a type of floor hockey played indoors. It seems like the game was invented as a substitute for ice hockey when there is no ice. Being a fast and exciting sport, I love the sport back in Singapore where I have been playing for the past 10 years and coming to Europe, where the sport was even more popular, I knew that I can’t stop. Here’s a little taste on what floorball is:

Before arriving in Edinburgh for my first semester, I started scouting for teams in the city that I could join. I wasn’t hoping for much as the sport is not big in the UK (as compared to top favorites like of course football) but I was happy when I found Edinburgh Floorballers who plays recreationally near my accommodation (plus they were friendly and nice!). As I wanted to also try to play competitively, the players there recommended that I joined Fife Floorball Club who are based in Kirkcaldy, Fife (a train ride away from Edinburgh) since it was the nearest club. It was with them where I played in the Scottish Cup and the Scottish Floorball League and boy, was it an experience! It was the first time playing alongside men and there is so much diversity in game play. I had wonderful teammates both young and younger who were a joy to play with. I also realised how dedicated players here are even to a non-mainstream sport as we had to travel close to 2 hours by car to the competition venue in Perth (and play 3 games in a row to make full use of the travel).  I look forward to joining them again when I return to Edinburgh!!!

The next semester to be an exciting one as I would be heading to SWEDEN!! The birthplace of floorball!! It is no surprise that Sweden have dominated the world championship (although Finland have been contesting for the top spot in recent years) and there’s even more anticipation on what’s to come when you google “Lund University Floorball” and one of the first pictures you see is this….

csm_Floorball2016_c669b2cccb

Yup!! That’s the fire engineering teachers’ team from Lund University lead by goalkeeper Prof. Patrick van Hees! Walking down the Brandteknik corridor, you may spot the goalie helmet at the corner of Patrick’s office or the stick by the corner of Enrico’s office. I guess floorball does run in the fire engineering blood…. or at least in Lund!

As Lund University has strong links with universities in Singapore, a couple of my floorball friends back home were in Lund for their exchange and together we went in search for avenues to play floorball. There were hit-arounds by the nations as well as other student associations but our favourite experience was with Killer Kriller Boys or KKB for short (KKB sounds like Kokobear when pronounced the Swedish way). They are a bunch of friends who just picked up a sport a year ago but had so much passion for the sport that it was truly inspiring. I loved fighting alongside them in the Korpen Innebandy Lund. Win, lose or draw, it didn’t matter as they were an encouraging team and through floorball, I gained a team of friends too! I truly miss playing with them now that I’m out of Lund but I am glad that they are still floorball-ing on! Also, since the competition venue was only a short walk away, even my IMFSE classmates were in on the action by coming down to watch the games. Thanks guys for your support!! 🙂

Sweden is really a heaven for a floorball fan. They are floorball sticks sold in every sports store, even the second hand stores! I was also able to catch the Swedish Super League in the Globe Arena, Stockholm!!! That is like witnessing floorball equivalent of the Champions League or even the World Cup!!

I’m not hoping to convert all fire engineers to floorball fanatics but having an outlet to relieve stress or meet new people has helped me to gain a wider experience during my IMFSE journey beyond the classroom, beyond the university. Floorball has seen me through tough times during my studies and work back home but despite being far from home, it is one that is still sustaining me even now. I have also met great friends who share the same passions as me while developing a better understanding of the game and how it differs worldwide with different game plays, competition set-ups and players. Kind of how teaching styles, university administrations or even students vary from place to place along the IMFSE journey.

Everyone needs that bit of fuel to fire on through their studies in the IMFSE programme. It may be tennis (call Gerard), basketball (call Miqdad) or dancing (which seems to be favorite among some of my classmates as they would attend “Dancing in the Dark” which is a weekly event in Lund organised by No Lights, No Lycra). No matter what that fuel is, bring it with you together with your love for fire safety engineering as you move from one city to another for there is more out there to explore.

Journey to Edinburgh: Tips to Avoid Misfortune

Let me start this blog post by saying that my Erasmus experience, so far, is the best that has ever happened in my life. If you are the type of person who wants adventure, who wants to try something new, who is outgoing and wants to meet a lot of people, and who wants to be exposed and serve as a melting pot of different cultures and personalities, then this challenge is definitely for you. If you are up to the challenge of packing your whole life in a couple of bags and suitcases, moving in to a new country and adjust all over again almost every six months, moving out just when everything is almost settling in, then I encourage you to apply.

To the new batch of IMFSE students who already started their journey, congratulations! This experience is a roller-coaster-ride of emotions. You will probably experience a lot of “first times”. I, through IMFSE, experienced for the first time to go out of my country, to see and play snow, to do backpacking and visit different countries in just a couple of days, to eat local delicacies, to try authentic Belgian waffles, beers, and fries, to shop at the famous IKEA in Sweden where it is actually from, to have “fika”, to say common Belgian and Swedish phrases, to know how -18°C feels like, and a lot more.

But, let me burst your bubble. Being in a mobility program is not only rainbows and chocolates. There is always the stress of finding accommodation. You will, at some point, experience being a homeless person, scouring the streets of the city trying to find a place you can call home. There is the stress of putting everything in your luggage and hoping that it will not weigh over the limit as things accumulate over time. There is the emotional stress of leaving people you made friends with and of sad the possibility that you might never see them again.

Sharing Ghent tips to my classmates!

But for me, and I am speaking this based on experience, the worst side of being in a mobility program is the bureaucratic process; i.e., VISA APPLICATION. For the lucky holders of the powerful passports in the world, you can end reading this blog post if you opt to, hahaha! But for those who are in the bottom of the passport ranking list, you might find this post helpful in the future and you know who to contact just in case this unfortunate events regarding visa happen to you which I hope not, though. These tips apply mostly for UK Visa but there are other things that you might find helpful as well.

  • Request for your CAS number immediately after receiving your Offer Letter.
  • Read the instructions of the visa application carefully and prepare all necessary documents. I was refused an entry clearance visa because apparently, I did not submit a tuberculosis screening test. There is an exemption to the rule, though. There is a clause that, at the time of online application, if you have been living in a country for more than 6 months which is not required to submit that test and was not away from that country for more than 6 months as well. Remember that this requirement is based on residency and not on nationality.
  • If you believe that your application has strong grounds, request for an administrative review. You can ask the university for help if the case is a bit too complicated. They are very supportive to their future students and they can contact the Home Office directly.
  • Better check with the Visa Application Center first than to shell out money to call and email the Home Office.
  • Do not buy flight tickets if you do not have your passport in your hands. An assurance that you will receive the passport is not enough.
  • Always have a back-up plan. I missed my flight and because late bookings are very expensive, the cheapest option to go from Brussels to Edinburgh is using two bus journeys although it took me 20 hours to arrive.
  • Do not lose hope and bring with you a lot of patience. Patience is a virtue, indeed.

Despite all the hardships that I went through to get to Edinburgh, the journey made me a better person, I met good people along the way and experienced cool stuff. One notable person is the Border Police who checked my documents. He then saw the glorious “International Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering” in my school documents. “You should have been here a few hours ago. We had a small fire earlier.” I smiled back and we had a short chat. He wished me well for my studies and he told me to have a good time in the UK. I also got to experience crossing the underwater tunnel at the English Channel. The bus went inside a gigantic train! After less than two hours of being shaken, the bus went out of the train. Voila! “I am in the UK, finally!” Although the journey to Edinburgh did not become easy on me, so far I am in love with this city so stay tuned to next adventures.

At the border of France and UK before going through the underwater tunnel

The bus going inside the train!

This last part is a shout-out to all the persons and institutions who were part of this overwhelming turn of events. To Jane O’ Loughlin of the International Student Advisory Service who called the Home Office personally to expedite the administrative review and to follow-up on my passport, thanks a lot! To Grunde Jomaas, our professor, I appreciate that you keep updating on me from time to time and that you even moved one class the next day for me to be there.

To the Paris Visa Application Center, the university told me that two other students got delayed when they applied from your office. I hope that in the future, other students will not suffer the same misfortune.

Finally in Edinburgh!

@ time t=0

IMFSE is back in business with new students eager to initialise their IMFSE journey and old ones wishing time could slow down for us to savour the last year we have with the IMFSE family. Despite being the first time studying in Ghent for most of us, it was back to the similar drill of applying resident permits, moving into accommodation, buying the necessities, opening bank account etc… which may sound daunting but for any IMFSE student, it has become a norm. Adaptability is definitely one useful lifeskill that all IMFSE students have attained due to the mobility aspect of the programme.

However, one segment of the start that I was looking forward to was definitely the IMFSE Welcome Moment traditionally held at the start of the school term where the students in Edinburgh and Ghent meet for the first time…. virtually. For the first year, it was a chance to meet their fellow colleagues on the other side of the North Sea but for the year 2s its a reunion of old friends since we separated from Lund. It was like deja vu as I could still remember being on the other side of the screen in Edinburgh last year.

As the formalities of introduction got underway, I was well aware of the high calibre of IMFSE students in the new batch. Kudos to the selection team for bringing together many talented students from diverse background but with a common goal… to develop as future fire safety engineers as well as develop the future of fire safety engineering. It really shows how much IMFSE have grown over the years and its exciting to anticipate what IMFSE have in store for the future. So here we go, start of year 2018-2019!!

Welcome week is nothing without a good get together and Edinburgh (with the active effort by Prof Grunde Jomaas) really set the bar when it comes to welcome parties and social events (which I’m sure you will hear more about from the bloggers in Edinburgh now). But hey, Ghent University has got exciting stuff in store of us this year… presenting to you… Ghent’s answer to Edinburgh’s “Burgers and Social”…. “BEERS AND SUN”… hehe (sorry but I dont think anyone would deny that Belgium do have the best beers and definitely more sun”).

The FSE Introduction Day started with a lunch which not only had a variety of sandwiches but also provided a platform for both IMFSE and MFSE (local FSE masters in Ghent) students to mingle with each other which is important as we would be classmates in the coming semester. However, what the IMFSE team in Ghent had in store for us next was really novel, a brainchild of Prof. Ruben van Coille. It involves a workshop where all of us were split into groups and were given a practical case of the fire safety design of Shopping Centre for us to brainstorm on the fire safety considerations that is to be taken into account. This exercise was not only moderated by the professors but also FESG (Fire Engineered Solutions Ghent), a fire safety engineering consultancy firm from Ghent who was able to provide practical insights into fire safety engineering application to real-life projects. The “boundary conditions” set in the formation of the groups also forced us to mingle and expose us to different ideas and concepts within the groups itself. Overall, this is quite an interesting initiative which I hope will continue for future generations to come.

But wait… where is the beers and sun? Well, the day ended with a gathering at VOORUIT! With drinks in hand, we basked in the sun at the outdoor deck of the bar while enjoying each other’s company. Ain’t no better way to end the day!!

So here’s to another year filled with challenges but not without friendships and memories to last. Greetings from the IMFSE team in Ghent!!

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-19 at 7.48.52 PM

 

 

Summer Internship

A small prehistory: during my last year of undergraduate study, I’ve decided that I won’t start working right after graduation and I will continue my education as a Master student. I have chosen not to follow my major (Radiophysics), but to select a different field for graduate studies. So, right after getting my diploma I became a part of IMFSE. Therefore,  having a practice in fire safety engineering was crucial for me, because I had no job experience in this field. In the beginning of the 2nd semester I started my searchings for summer practice.

To find an internship I followed the standard procedure – I have sent my CV and completed the required task. By the end of May I got a positive feedback and- voila! – in August I became an intern in FESG company.

IMG_8736

Some of my classmates also did their summer internship there, though we have started and finished in different times – working together, even for a quite a short time, was very fun.

IMG_8520.jpg

I can say that I found this internship very beneficial for me – I’ve seen how the real fire safety consultancy works, I’ve met a lot of IMFSE graduates there and I’ve got my very first work experience ever!

friends.gif

During my internship I had an opportunity to work with evacuation software and later with risk assessment of various SHC systems. It is funny that exactly these topics were covered during Lund semester, they were still fresh in my mind and I applied my knowledge to the job. I have been performing the fault tree analysis of the systems and calculating their reliabilities.

One of classmates, Ayyappa, also shared his summer internship experience.

db613fbf-fc37-48ad-b8f9-0b8d80501b26.JPG

Ayyappa was working on simulation of pyrolysis in Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) in Cantene company. The main objective of his study was to understand pyrolysis and its simulation in FDS. He considered different case studies (solid and liquid pyrolysis) and analysed each one in detail. 

My other classmates, Farah and Gerard, who did summer internship as well, will share their summer internship experiences in their own blogpost, I guess 😉

So, for the 1st year students who is looking for summer practice I would recommend not to delay with searches and start looking for internship as soon as possible, using LinkedIn or by e-mailing companies directly. However, there will also be an opportunity to find an internship position via IMFSE office during the second semester.

I can summarize that summer practice though is not obligatory, but highly recommended, especially for those who also never did job related to fire safety before. I wish everyone a good luck! Hope you will enjoy your internship as I did.

 

 

 

 

 

IMFSE’s first registered Fire Safety Engineer in Singapore: Liew Li Hooi

Over the summer break, I have the wonderful opportunity to work as an intern in ARUP Singapore where I met one of the pioneer batch of IMFSE students. Ms Liew Li Hooi graduated from the IMFSE programme back in 2012 and is currently a senior fire engineer in ARUP Singapore.

41739965_257999534854158_3072367845460410368_n

Li Hooi who originated from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia joined the IMFSE programme after working as a Diplomatic Officer in the Malaysian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for a year. Looking to make a career change, she joined the IMFSE programme in 2010 and since then she has grown leaps and bounds as a fire safety engineer. Upon graduation, she has worked in two of the leading engineering firms in the world; AECOM for 2.5 years before proceeding to ARUP where has worked for 3.5 years since. Her experience culminated in her being awarded the registered Fire Safety Engineer (FSE) status under the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) last month. This is a proud moment for any practising engineer in Singapore as it is highly specialised and recognised title in Singapore. This is what she has to say about her momentous achievement:

Upon graduation, my initial thought was to pursue a career somewhere warmer, spoiled with good Asian food and closer to home so Singapore was naturally the perfect choice. It was supposed to be a temporary stop to gain experience before moving home for good but I just fell in love with Singapore in many ways and don’t think I am moving home anytime soon. During my interview with SCDF to be registered as an FSE, I told the interviewing panel frankly that I had been working towards this moment since I graduated and I am really flattered for the recognition. FSE is the bridge that connects the clients and the fire authority, I think it is very important for us to strike a balance in between meeting client’s expectations and achieving satisfactory level of fire safety.

Being an intern under Li Hooi and watching her achieve this recognition before my eyes was an inspiring moment. As she is the first IMFSE student to be a registered FSE in Singapore, it was a re-affirmation of my own decision for a career change and how IMFSE is a great platform to develop a strong foundation for future FSEs. Li Hooi’s journey in IMFSE started in Edinburgh followed by Lund and then Ghent where she stayed on to complete her dissertation under the supervision of the legendary Bart Merci. Here is what she has to say on the impact of IMFSE in her development as a fire safety engineer:

The training in IMFSE definitely prepared me very well for the job market, I have been promoting this programme regularly to people who have asked me this question including the Singapore fire authority. Other than the familiarisation with the local codes, I could basically work independently as soon as I graduated. I was very confident whenever questioned because I understand the fundamentals of fire engineering and was able to carry out simulations and designs with minimum guidance. Can’t really say which course specifically stands out because they were all great.

Her words brought a lot of conviction to the programme. Prior to joining the programme, I was surprised that many fire safety engineers in Singapore already knew about IMFSE and have assured me that it was a great programme. Now I understood how Li Hooi has become an IMFSE champion by being a great example of the potential and capabilities that an IMFSE graduate can bring to the industry. However, as IMFSE can provide the perfect foundation for a fire engineering student, the development to become a professional in the industry is different ball game altogether. This is what Li Hooi has to say about her work as a fire safety engineer and the challenges she faced:

The most fulfilling moment is definitely upon obtaining design approval from the fire authority. It is a product of countless coordination with multi-disciplinary design teams, hard-earned approval from the clients, and multiple rounds of negotiations with the authority; and imagine working on perhaps 10 projects in average at any one point that give you different issues every single day, the real challenge is to keep yourself motivated. A good way to de-stress is to take a tour in the city with your visitors and start telling them proudly “I worked on this project” – works well for me.

Thoughout my internship, Li Hooi has shown to be an exemplary fire safety engineer. Despite the heavy workload, she maintains a professional attitude towards each project and is able to gain the respect of both clients and authorities involved in her projects. Being a good fire safety engineer is much more than just a job; it is a responsibility. So what are the ingredients that make a good fire safety engineer?

Personally I think it all goes down to carrying the right attitude, regardless of what profession you’re in. The similarity I gathered from my two mentors over the past 6 years is that they are both very patient and humble. Professionally, I would say that a fire safety engineer should carry out due diligence to coordinate with the design team and ensure that all required fire safety provisions are captured in the architect and engineer’s designs. We have also the responsibilities to highlight to the design team whenever we spot mistakes although not within our scope of works.

As I start my final year in IMFSE, the experience of working with IMFSE alumni, Li Hooi, has been a refreshing boost to spur myself on for another year. I was also appreciative that even though I was only an intern, she cared about my development within the 2 months by ensuring that I was exposed to as many aspects of fire safety engineering as possible and not only gave me interesting tasks but trusted me with them. There is much more for me to learn and develop but for now, these are her words of advice for budding fire safety engineers like me:

Just enjoy yourselves for now, you’re all in good hands! 🙂