15 Feb, 2022
10 : 00
The 21st century has seen the relationship between computer algorithms and the physical world getting ever more closely intertwined. The latest example includes the American Waymo (formerly the Google self-driving car project), which will map the streets of New York City with its fleet of autonomous vehicles.
The build-up of interest at the intersection of supercomputing, communication technologies and artificial intelligence is growing exponentially. Pooled resources have resulted in cyber-physical systems (CPS), an area YCIS Shanghai alumnus Patrick Haffmans is keen to work in, as he wants to help send robots into space in the future.
The aspiring engineer is a big believer in using creativity – which is never just a catchword on his resume - to drive innovation and change.
Patrick is currently working with Weibel Scientific as an algorithm engineer after completing his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at University College London. He also recently won the ‘Project of the Year’ award for his mechatronics thesis at the University of Southern Denmark.
Having spent 12 years at YCIS Shanghai, Patrick, who has German and Filipino parents, still reminisces about the supportive tight-knit community at his alma mater that fuelled his passion for technology and a desire to drive positive change in society.
We chatted with Patrick about the opportunities YCIS Shanghai had offered him, and his enduring interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Question：Tell us about your experiences while studying at YCIS Shanghai (Puxi Campus).
Answer：I dearly miss my time at the YCIS Gubei Campus in Puxi. I even dream about it sometimes! It felt like a second home to me as I spent so much time there. The school community is very close and friendly. It was also exciting to see that YCIS has five campuses in Shanghai, all of which have their own spacious facilities.
Q：You grew up in Shanghai and lived in US, UK, and Denmark. How was the transition and how did you overcome the challenge of settling into a new environment?
A：I have been very mobile since graduating from YCIS. I find each new location less of a challenge and more exciting. Everything is new. Adjusting to a new environment can be tough sometimes but it is fun to tackle. Finding support from other newcomers who arrive from other countries is one way to help with your transition.
Right now, I am happy to be in Copenhagen for the foreseeable future.
Q：You gained a master’s degree in mechatronics and cyber-physical systems from the University of Southern Denmark and received the BHJ award (for emerging researchers/scientists). What sparked your interest in this area?
A：While I was at YCIS Shanghai, the design and technology, maths, and physics classes were the ones I truly enjoyed. These subjects changed my perspective on how I could apply knowledge in real life contexts.
In particular, I am really interested in control systems engineering. This is one of the most mathematically intensive fields of engineering, where maths can be applied in the real world in a very tangible way – autonomous systems for example.
Q：Is there any advice you would like share with students who are interested in pursuing a STEM major or, specifically, mechatronics?
A：I have two pieces of advice for students interested in STEM. The first is to take part in directly related extracurricular activities where you can learn some skills and basic knowledge that will come in handy later when you’re enrolled in a STEM course. Find yourself a mentor and connect with other people who share a similar interest. STEM is a very broad subject, and it is very helpful to have mentors to provide guidance.
The second piece of advice is to practice maths like an instrument. When I was at university, they said you should practice it for 20 minutes each day, like you’re learning the piano. You must turn it into muscle memory.
Q：The IB curriculum is an academically challenging and rigorous programme. What’s your advice for future students at YCIS Shanghai?
A：The first is to have a routine where you build a structure for work and break time, and maintain it consistently. I also recommend students take advantage of the CAS (creativity, activity, service) hours. Convert a hobby into one of the CAS activities and create space to take time off.
Secondly, prioritise your rest time and keep your mind refreshed to get the most out of your study time.
Lastly, reach out for help if you are struggling. There’s always help available.
Q：Are you planning to come back to Shanghai? What are you up to and what's next for you?
A：I have not been back to Shanghai since graduation but I have already spoken to my former classmates about going back to China one day to visit the places that we all grew up in.
I‘ve just started working fulltime for Weibel Scientific, one of the leading global producers that develops and manufactures velocity and position measuring instruments based on continuous wave Doppler principles. The company, which has a strong focus on the tracking of space debris, is a supplier for space agencies including European Space Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This is really a ‘dream come true’ moment for me – to help contribute to space exploration through engineering.
The mastery of a wide range of skills is needed in the workplace today and will be of even greater importance for the next generation. Our education model provides opportunities for our students to develop crucial skills in all areas. YCIS Shanghai pays specific attention to science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths. Children experience STEAM topics not just as a speciality theme but rather as a key area of learning that is integrated across all subjects.
Technology at the Pudong and Puxi locations is introduced in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) programme, starting K2 for two-year-olds. From getting used to using iPads and learning about the importance of design, to understanding programming and coding through different tools and technologies, the school’s youngest learners are exposed, in many ways, to technological activities (read more about Innovative Technology Learning and Activities at YCIS).
In Primary, beyond day-to-day in-classroom usage, technology – including programming and coding activities – has been integrated into the school’s Education Technology (Edtech) curriculum for many years. Students continue to learn coding language and logic and begin to use more advanced tech tools and robots. Students learn programming language Scratch as the tasks become more complex, eventually adding complexity to their code scripts and building custom computer games. Both YCIS Puxi and YCIS Pudong offer students from Upper Primary to Lower Secondary have the opportunity to begin using the C programming language for programming microcomputers which helps build a strong foundation for learning other digital languages.
YCIS Shanghai Secondary students have the chance to work with more complex programming languages, like Python, and the real-time 3D development platform Unity, which is a world leader in the video games industry and is used by many renowned companies like Google, Microsoft, and Uber.
In the coming week, YCIS Puxi will welcome their STEAM week where students from ECE, primary, and secondary will explore the theme “The Sustainable Festival of Light” through activities and experiments in class. Our parents are also invited to take part in the theme week for a more immersive experience for our students with daily challenges on SeeSaw shared by teachers. Stay tuned for our recap and YCIS Pudong’s STEAM week!
Before the Chinese New Year break, ten YCIS Secondary girls from Pudong and Puxi and four Science Department teachers came together for their first company visit to ExxonMobil as part of the Girls in STEMM programme. Girls in STEMM is an initiative to help close the gender gap in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths, medicine) fields by engaging girls in STEMM early on. Students had to apply for this programme and were selected based on their interest and passion for the initiative, ability to share their experience and learning with the school community, and adeptness to collaborate with other students to make this program meaningful to the school community. We still have four company visits left and look forward to a graduation ceremony at the YCIS Pudong Century Park Campus in April!
Participation in events in and out of school show our students’ skills as critical thinkers who can adapt the lessons from their classroom and deliver their knowledge to the community. We are excited to see how they participate and apply STEAM knowledge in and out of school in the future!