The Ngee Ann Kongsi Most Outstanding Overcomer Award gives recognition to a student who has demonstrated strong perseverance in overcoming the odds and setbacks in life to complete the course of study with good academic records, and is exemplary in his or her conduct. It is named after the renowned charitable foundation, the Ngee Ann Kongsi, in honour of its generous contribution to TP.
As a two-year-old, when Jessen was unable to walk, his anxious parents checked with doctors who diagnosed him with having Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2 – a motor neuron disease that causes the loss of motor functions. Today, Jessen has lost strength in the muscles of his legs and requires the use of a motorised wheelchair. Yet, this young man, the eldest of three sons of accountants, remains positive, always sporting a ready smile.
Forced to choose a CCA when he was in Primary 4 in Geylang Methodist School, he decided to join the Media Robotics Club, just so he could make computer games! It was here that he learned to develop games and fell in love with game development.
Fiercely independent, he worked hard at his studies at Geylang Methodist School (Secondary), to realise his dream of pursuing the game development course at TP. All was well until Secondary 3, when his spine had bent so much to the left that he required surgery to insert a steel rod to straighten it. After the surgery, Jessen contracted pneumonia and had to stay in hospital for another month. Despite all the catching-up he needed to do, Jessen remained focused and aced his O-levels, attaining a net aggregate score of 7 points.
The transition from secondary school to polytechnic was initially hard for Jessen, as he found the workload heavy and he had to familiarise himself with the new campus. He had also started travelling to and from TP by bus and MRT on his own. It proved to be a year of challenges, adjustments and opportunities, which he finished with flair by getting on the Director’s List for his stellar academic performance. He repeated this feat in his second year.
Fervent about making the environment more inclusive, Jessen is keen to use technology to improve the lives of people, particularly those who have disabilities. In his second year, he led a team of students in the Microsoft Singapore Imagine Cup Competition 2018 where they proposed a navigation app to help the wheelchair-bound find accessible routes and avoid obstacles like overhead bridges and stairs. Jessen focused his research on integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into this solution. He also competed in the Splash Awards 2018 and attended the Serious Games Conference.
In his final year, Jessen was part of the team commissioned to develop a mobile game for National Day 2018. Titled “NDP Jalan!”, the game enabled users to familiarise themselves with Singapore’s civic district through fun activities and the use of augmented reality technologies. Jessen also completed a six-month internship at the Bioinformatics Institute at A*STAR. Witty and articulate, his course-mates have the highest respect for him because he is responsible, self-motivated and intelligent.
With his great passion and technical aptitude, Jessen graduates with an outstanding cGPA of 3.93 and is the Bronze medallist of his course cohort. While he eventually hopes to pursue a university degree to deepen his skills in game design and development, he has decided to get more experience first, by working with a game development company.
So whom does Jessen admire? “Game developers – because they are in the line of work, regardless of how hard it is, purely because of their love and passion for games, and I respect that.”
Bravo, Jessen! We are so proud of you.