HTX Intern Stories: “Having good mentorship makes all the difference”

Adelina Wong, Q Team intern for the Integration and Development for Unmanned Systems, learnt that it’s okay to ask for help at work – all it takes is a little courage and tenacity. Here’s her story on her fulfilling internship experience.

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Adelina Wong (left) with her supervisor Yan Ling from the Q Team CoE. (Photo: HTX)

Behind Adelina’s shy and quiet personality is an adventurous spirit with a love for mountains and hiking. Having completed several hikes in the past, the Year 3 Computer Engineering student has set her sights on Ansan Mountain in Seoul, which she plans to scale next during her Summer Exchange.

The trail up Ansan mountain is pretty steep, and so was the learning curve that Adelina faced when trying to understand C++, a programming language which she had not used before. Why did she have to learn a new programming language? Because she had to integrate a sensor with a robot car called MiniX.

Getting robots to communicate

MiniX is a four-wheeled robot car that can conduct surveillance of underground facilities and tunnels that may be difficult for officers to access physically. Adelina’s job was to implement the features of a new sensor on MiniX so that the user and sensor data could be communicated between the two nodes. This required programming, which had to be done using C++ and Python.

“Although I already had basic coding knowledge for Linux and Python, what I learnt in school for C++ was not as complete. So, I found myself struggling when trying to develop a communications module to transmit data between the sensor and the robot using C++. I couldn’t really understand the code syntax and structures, and the library for the sensor felt foreign,” she said.

She then spent around three weeks trying to understand the code on her own with the help of online references and code samples, which were unfortunately limited. The steep learning curve was frustrating for her. Despite having questions, she was initially afraid to ask around at work for help.

When things started falling into place

“I kept my questions to myself because I wasn’t sure if they would seem too trivial to others. I didn’t want to seem like I was underperforming as an intern,” Adelina shared honestly. “I was on the verge of giving up before I finally decided to muster up my courage to approach my internship mentor, Yan Ling, for help directly.”

That proved to be the right move. From there, it was only onwards and upwards.

“Yan Ling took the time to sit down with me to analyse the code step by step. She was patient and explained the concepts thoroughly until my knowledge gaps were filled. Everything started to make more sense once I was pointed in the right direction. I wouldn’t have achieved my breakthrough without her help,” Adelina said.

“I realised that my fear of asking for help was unfounded too,” she added. “Interns aren’t expected to know everything, but we are expected to be proactive when searching for answers. Having good mentorship makes all the difference.”

From grit to guidance to gratitude

When asked to describe Yan Ling’s mentorship, Adelina did not hesitate to say with genuine emphasis, “She’s amazing. She doesn’t hesitate to help me when I need assistance, and she’s patient to help clarify any doubts I had.”

It was also Yan Ling who took notice of Adelina’s interest in 3D printing. Yan Ling’s perceptiveness opened doors to let Adelina learn the technical skill.

02Adelina with one of the 3D cases she designed. (Photo: HTX)

“I got to come up with my own design for the sensor and experiment with the varying dimensions to suit the intended purpose. It was exciting to see my vision become reality and being able to use my creativity was fun. It’s the reason why the integration of the sensor with MiniX has been my favourite thing to work on, despite it being one of the tougher projects,” Adelina said.

I’m glad I was given the opportunity to try working on different projects where I could exercise my creativity and learn to think out of the box to solve difficult problems.

Having successfully designed 3D cases for other IoT devices and hardware components with 3D printing, Adelina said that she finds the time-consuming process worth it when the final product is made. A single 2x4 Lego brick, for instance, can take around 10 minutes to print. For something bigger and more intricate, like a palm-sized casing for the sensor, several hours are needed. “3D printing can take up to five hours or more, and that’s not including the designing process and doing trial and error,” Adelina said.

A bird’s eye view

With patience and perseverance, Adelina found satisfaction when she pushed on to get to where she needed to be, just like when it comes to hiking. She also found the learning environment to be just right, despite her initial worries that she had before the internship that the work would be too fast-paced.

“I would say there is a healthy level of stress, which is good to challenge myself. At the same time, there are sufficient breaks and the workload is manageable,” she said.

“I’m glad I was given the opportunity to try working on different projects where I could exercise my creativity and learn to think out of the box to solve difficult problems,” Adelina reflected. “All in all, I’m glad to have joined HTX on internship; it has contributed to my growth, both professionally and personally.”

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