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If you take a trip around Singapore, it’s not uncommon to see construction site after construction site. In this bustling island city, there seems to be a constant slew of new building projects. But way before any construction can take place, it is important to conduct geotechnical and soil investigation in order to understand the ground conditions and physical properties of the land. Two SIT-DigiPen (Singapore) students, Wazirullah Bin Rumzi and Zachary Ko from the BEng in Systems Engineering (ElectroMechanical Systems) — or SEEMS — program, recently lent their engineering expertise to Geoscan Pte. Ltd. and had a chance to work in the company’s research and development (R&D) department during their internship.

Geoscan was incorporated in Singapore in 1989 and specializes in the field of geotechnical instrumentation, soil investigation, and real-time vibration and noise monitoring services. In 2012, the company started its R&D department to develop real-time monitoring systems in noise and vibration monitoring. This was to increase productivity by reducing the instances of manual downloads of data. In order to build the real-time monitoring systems, a multidisciplinary design approach — comprising hardware, firmware, cloud, and mechanical designs — was needed.

Geoscan first approached Singapore Institute of Technology back in 2017 to discuss internship opportunities as part of the Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP). All students under the SIT-DigiPen (Singapore) joint degrees take part in the IWSP, a work placement program designed to provide students with opportunities to develop professional skills in a real-world setting. Since SEEMS students study the fields of mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering with a holistic approach to systems design, their wide-ranging expertise was a good fit with what Geoscan’s R&D team had been doing.

After hearing about the internship openings at Geoscan, Zachary was amongst the first to apply as he was keen to challenge himself as much as possible in an R&D environment during his IWSP. In the case of Wazirullah, he was attracted to the technical job description and decided to apply.

During their time at Geoscan, Wazirullah and Zachary were assigned to two projects. The first was a web-based project where they worked on dashboard maintenance for the company’s online monitoring system. They upgraded the company’s existing real-time noise and vibration meter monitoring dashboard so that the user interface would be able to show graphical information besides numbers. This helped in making the data easier for Geoscan’s field monitoring team to understand.

Screenshot of a real-time noise and vibration meter monitoring dashboard

Besides upgrading the dashboard, Wazirullah and Zachary were tasked with an Internet-of-Things (IoT) development project. They had to study all 10 different types of sensors that the company uses in its field work and were then instructed to compare and analyze which one sensor would be suitable for further real-time monitoring development. Wazirullah and Zachary chose to work on a tiltmeter, a device designed to measure subtle changes in ground tilt and slope angles. Both of them worked on an embedded system as a proof-of-concept. They managed to transmit data from the tiltmeter via the internet so that it would be automatically displayed on a computer screen. This helped to serve as an important building block for Geoscan’s future R&D endeavors.

Internal circuitry and components of a tiltmeter device

“In order to implement these R&D projects, we had to use different programming languages such as C/C++, Arduino HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP,” says Wazirullah. “We were given the autonomy to explore different ways of solving a problem and applying the technical knowledge that we’ve learned in school in a real-world setting.”

According to Ngiam Tee Woh, Wazirullah’s and Zachary’s supervisor, the students’ brought fresh ideas and approaches to Geoscan and contributed to its future engineering solutions. “The SIT-DigiPen (Singapore) students have proven to be versatile and adaptive,” Tee Woh says. He’s been most impressed by Wazirullah’s and Zachary’s willingness to put their multidisciplinary abilities to tackle hardware, firmware, software, and mechanical design. Pleased with his experience with SIT-DigiPen (Singapore) so far, Tee Woh adds that Geoscan would very much like to hire more interns and graduates in the future.