Less Lights, More Energy for Sustainability

It has been a few years running and the main theme remains the same for iLight Marina Bay, and that is art in sustainable energy. I’ll be honest about being skeptical at how turning on a bunch of lights become a practice in sustainability when we are asked to turn off the lights during Earth Hour. But then again, it may make sense if we actually try and understand the different displays. And now should be a good time as any other time to do this.

Earlier that night...
Earlier that night…

Surprisingly, it was not so crowded the night we came to the festival. It may have been due to the rain earlier or we could be missing out on something. I really hope it was the former.

Octopoda
Octopoda

We started off from Marina Bay Sands The Shoppes where I met up with Judy and Matthew for dinner. We were greeted by the Octopoda when we stepped out of The Shoppes. However, Matthew was not interested in the rythmic drumming that Octopoda was offering. Walking along the boardwalk, we were supposed to go through the Passage but it was under maintenance. I needed to remind myself that it had just rained and we were talking about lights that are powered by electricity, so, safety first. As we continued along the boardwalk, we ended up at Light Play. A supposedly interactive installation that asks you to use a torch to get a reaction from the display. However, we never got it to work and no interaction with the people around us happened that night. Let’s not forget the side trip to the MADD flea market (which was an exercise in restraint from buying fantastic home-grown goodies that you may or may not actually need).

Klouds
Klouds

Turning towards the Promontory, we passed through some Klouds. It is another interactive installation where Geomag like clouds change colors when touched, tapped or otherwise banged on. We then gandered at some Chandelier of Spirits, well, cold brew coffee spirits. These brown bottles were turned into giant chandeliers giving off a soft amber hue in the night. We ended up at the MailboX where we sent some interactive emojis via Twitter with the hashtag #ilightmarinabay. It was actually fun seeing your message shown at the MailboX. Whareatua was not what we expected (because really, we expected more) so let’s just leave it at that. We continued walking around the Marina Bay area going towards The Esplanade where the rest of the installation should be. We realised that there did not seem to be as much as before (or the installations have become smaller) but at the same time, having less crowds make it a better experience overall. And you also realise how tiring it is walking around the bay which brings us to a pit stop at Starbucks.

Love is...
Love is…

Moving along after a perk-me-upper, we listened to the pulse of the city from the installation With Love… It was actually neat to see how the red glow from this heart illuminates the night, especially the façade of The Fullerton Hotel. The heart trail brings us to the Merlion which has become an installation called the Elements of Life. The projections over the Merlion were absolutely gorgeous showing the elements of earth, fire, water and air making it the base for the present and the future. Across the bridge then down towards the Esplanade area, we hit Transistable Plastic. It basically allows you to swim in plastic waste like some of our endangered sea creatures in a maze of vacuum packed plastic bottles. This however, paved the way towards Urban Rice Fields which is supposed to have been inspired by Singapore’s sustainable development. You really need to turn on your camera flash to get the full effect. Dancing Grass is just beyond this installation, where you shrink to the size of ants walking along blades of lit grass in the night. The night was turning late though so we were soon finding our way back to the MRT to go home.

Just some dancing grass.
Just some dancing grass.

But not before we were invited to see Flawless where the word is photoluminescence. The installation supposedly absorbs light energy in the day giving them the bright green glow at night. Unfortunately, we were looking at UV lit “falling leaves” here. We were about to call it quits when we were then mooved to have a look at some cows in the middle of the city. Milk Bottle Cows. It does promote recycling and up-cycling of everyday materials such as used milk bottles and they were kind of cute. We ended the night with a slow walk towards the train station to go home.

 

Going back to my initial thought, there wasn’t really any sustainability in the installations by any measurable means. The thought is there, or I should say that the message is there but it certainly does not show with all the pretty lights blazing across the bay. So, the art is there and the message is there, but the sustainability part needs to be worked on because honestly, it is the message that needs to be conveyed. Come for the art and appreciate the lights, but when you come home, remember that sustainability really should begin with each of us.

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Make the Future with Shell

Team Philippines
Team Philippines

Fossil fuels are finite. In fact, we are running out. We have been racing to find alternative sources of energy for the better part of the last two decades, and this is where we are now.

 

Advances in technology and the human drive towards evolution has paved the way for more efficient machines, better production of power and the ability to harness energy from the sun, natural gases and food waste. When I was in secondary school, the future that I was looking at was a DeLorean time machine that flies powered by organic waste. Well, we haven’t gone that far yet, but we have gone far enough to see that it’s close. And that kind of technology is showcased at Shell’s Make the Future event.

 

Changi Exhibition Center was the venue for 2018 and we have been here before. While the venue is good for this kind of exhibition, the place has one major drawback. It is hot and it is in the middle of nowhere. Okay, that makes it two drawbacks.

Building a salt water powered car
Building a salt water powered car

The venue was divided into three zones. The Main Stage where the music is coming from along with science shows and event announcements about the Eco-Marathon and basically everything else. We didn’t really spend much time here except when we needed to refuel for lunch. Although you are allowed to bring your own food and drinks, we were not really going to lug a picnic basket and then some for lunch. We just made sure we had enough cash to gas up at the venue. The food isn’t really what the event is about so it is nothing to be worked up over. You can even buy most of the food from Shell’s Deli at their service stations.

Learning about Hydrogen power through VR
Learning about Hydrogen power through VR

The Energy Future zone was where we spent most of our time though. This is where people are asked to explore how energy is generated and the alternate sources of energy that can be used. The Bright Ideas challenge showcases the ideas from secondary school students for a cleaner energy future. Imagine harnessing electricity to power your classroom just by sitting down, yep, that was a bright idea (and in theory it works). And imagine harnessing electricity from vibrations, yep, that was also a bright idea. I guess with the proper guidance and technical know-how, young minds can really think up what works in the future. Also in the zone are some of Shell’s energy partners showing off their stuff. The Linde Group in particular showed us the future of Hydrogen power. Matthew had his first VR experience here and from the spectator’s point of view, it looked like he had fun. And yes, while the previous concerns with Hydrogen was its, ehem, explosive nature, it seems that we have once again jumped that hurdle and the future is looking good. The final piece in this zone for us was our salt water powered car. Yep. We were able to build a small toy car that can run on salt water. I can only guess that the two metal plates are responsible for creating electricity to power the small motor on the car. What they are and how they do it is still not being disclosed. But once again, it works. And that is what made the trip worth it.

Eco-marathoner
Eco-marathoner

The final zone was the Eco-Marathon. Students from across the Asia Pacific brought in their eco-marathon cars to see which is the most energy-efficient. A mix of solar powered, full electric, hybrid and internal combustion engine powered vehicles were in the field. This is not a race to see who the fastest is, this is a race to see who has the most efficient car setup. And it is not just about the type of power plant, but the whole design of the vehicles. You will see different ideas on different cars all designed to make the most out of their power. Aerodynamics plays a big part, and then there’s weight, there’s the strength of materials, the power delivery method, the motor, the wheels. Everything comes together behind those fiber-glass shells and I can only imagine how dedicated the drivers are to be racing under the sweltering heat of Singapore.

 

All the best to the competitors. Because for us, the real winners are the newest generation of folks who will benefit from the ideas of today. Because really, the future is being made for them.

Good Dad, Bad Dad.

Most of the time, we see the fault in the people around us but not our own. You can say that this is even more true when dealing with children. It may be because we are under the impression that because we are adults, we are always on the right. That can never be more wrong. We, as adults need to guide our children to be the best that they can be. But when we put ourselves in the position of being always right just because we are the parents, then we put up a wall. I only realised this when I was reflecting on a few things that have been happening in the past few weeks.

As parents, we expect our children to act like children in ideal worlds. We expect them to be cute, funny, obedient and disciplined among others. And in an ideal world, that may just be appropriate and expected. Unfortunately, the world we live in is not ideal (yet). There are so many real world problems that we have to manage and it can sometimes become a burden. And if we aren’t careful, we sometimes inadvertently pass some of these on to our kids. Whether we are aware of it or not is a question best left to ask ourselves when we are meditating.

Everyone is different. I can’t remember how many times I have been told of this. We need to remember that this is also true for kids (actually, especially for kids). We have to stop giving ourselves and our kids that image of what we are expecting our families to be. We should instead look at the future as a canvas that is blank. And our contribution to that canvas will be the colors of our lives. Be it light or dark or bright or gloomy. It is a canvas that can be painted as time goes by. It is not one of those “paint by numbers” kind of canvas but one that is free form. In our chase for the ideal world, we get lost in our own dreams and our own wishes. At one point we may even have gotten obsessed. But at what cost?

On my personal reflection, it has been a mixture of uncertainty. On one hand, I have always believed that I am raising Matthew into a strong-willed, brave and kind-hearted boy. An ideal boy who will not look out of place on a billboard showing off the best kid in the world. However, on that journey, I may have used fear instead respect, I may have used anger instead of care. I may have been seeing what I wanted to see but I may not have heard what my son was saying to me. It is this kind of paradoxical thinking that has led me to this uncertain train of thought. It is not a cry of madness. It is a deeper understanding of the world that is revolving around me. And I think that it has done me good. Hopefully, I now see and hear what the future of the canvas will bring.

Dad-borg
Dad-borg

Of course, the only way to find out is to go right out and ask Matthew how I am doing. And now should be as a time as any.