Programming Singapore’s Future with URA

A chance encounter with coding in secondary school opened doors to the world of computing and programming for URA Scholar Ong Chuan Kai. Currently a Year 3 Computer Engineering student at the National University of Singapore, Chuan Kai shares his eye-opening experiences with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and his outlook for the future.

Where It All Began

My curiosity about the programming world began in secondary school when I had to utilise Google Sites to present a project. I experimented with HTML source code to add games to the site and discovering the ability to do so amazed me. Upon further exploration, I found out how much more there was to programming. It sparked my interest to delve deeper into the space.

My interest deepened during my two-week work attachment in junior college with URA, where I provided feedback on a comprehensive web-based map service (URA SPACE) that allows users access to a wide array of land use information.

This brief but fulfilling experience deepened my understanding of how technology can shape Singapore’s future land use and the complexities of urban planning. It catalysed my interest in Singapore’s built environment, which led me to apply for the URA scholarship.

Real World Programming

As part of the scholarship programme, all scholars go through an attachment stint with the agency. This learning experience was invaluable. It allowed me to apply the knowledge I have learned in school.

I was first attached to the Information Systems and Geospatial Group (ISGG), where I helped design and implement the user interface for an internet-facing e-service. Subsequently, I conducted data validation checks to ensure the reliability and accuracy of data for its use in downstream planning at the Design and Planning Lab.

Through these two experiences, I had many opportunities to develop skills in design, programming, data processing, and applying technology in URA’s daily work.

New to technology application in real-world cases, it was challenging to understand how my work as an intern contributed to URA’s goals. I still remember a question I often asked my mentor when seeking feedback: Is this useful? He would reaffirm that the work I did was just as impactful.

Aside from technical skills, I also acquired many soft skills, such as time management, presentation, and networking. My colleagues’ invaluable support and guidance played an essential role in my academic and personal growth.

Into the Wider World

URA is also supportive of external internships and overseas study programmes. With their support, I embarked on external internships and study trips to improve my technical skills and knowledge and widen my perspectives. These endeavours allowed me to enhance my computing skills.

One such study trip was a winter exchange programme at Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea. I took a module, ‘Engineer and Society’, which exposed me to real-world case studies about ethically challenging decision-making and how engineering in global and multi-cultural contexts operates. A memorable project from this module involved identifying differences between Seoul and Singapore, which helped me better appreciate and understand how different cultural settings can affect city planning.

The Opportunities Are Endless

My journey as a URA scholar has been incredibly rewarding thus far. I gained profound insights into the vital work that URA oversees. I have honed my technical and interpersonal skills and fostered connections with amazing peers and mentors. Moving forward, I am excited for my future deployment to ISGG, where I will be able to utilise the skills learnt to contribute to advancing URA’s mission to make Singapore a great city to live, work, and play in.

Beyond shaping the future of land use in Singapore, being part of the URA family means numerous learning and development opportunities. If you are passionate about meaningful work and self-improvement, join us as a URA scholar!

URA Undergraduate Scholarship
Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Engineering), National University of Singapore
Now: Year 3 Undergraduate