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Impact 0542: Empowering youth through education and mental well-being

Luke Poh Jie Ren · 18 April 2022
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Youth Action Challenge (YAC) is a platform for youth to provide solutions that tackle the issues we are concerned about. Since October 2021, over 80 teams and more than 310 youths have undertaken the YAC Season 3 journey.

Poh Jie Ren, Luke, 18, is currently in the Applied Artifical Intelligence diploma programme at Temasek Polytechnic. He aims to leverage his tech skills to build a mobile application that will empower youth in Singapore to support their peers more effectively. 

He participated in Season 3 of the YAC, where he worked on You_th, a project that aims to educate and promote healthy mental well-being. Today, he shares more about his journey.

What was your role within your YAC project?

I hold two roles for this project – the product owner and front end developer/UI developer. As the product owner, I prioritise our team’s needs based on our project’s scope, budget and time. I also consider the needs of our target audience/user, which also allows me to effectively manage the development process of our solution, which is in the form of a mobile application. 

Regarding the development of our mobile application, I am the UI developer. I design the prototype and conduct usability testing to create a visually appealing and convenient interface. I will also be the front-end developer for our application once we start programming it. This means that I will focus on the functionality and operation of our app to ensure that the interface I designed earlier works smoothly to fulfil its functions for the user.

What motivated you to join YAC?

As a youth who has struggled with mental health myself, I appreciate those around me who have provided me with much needed help and support. Seeing a challenge statement focused on empowering youth to support their peers, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to give back to something I once benefited from. Beyond being concerned about this issue, I felt that I could leverage my technical skills from my polytechnic course to digitise possible solutions. 

Despite being aware that my team and I were on the lower end of the age range at YAC, I was reassured by the various mentors who guided us. With that, I felt that YAC was a timely opportunity where I could leverage YAC’s resources provided to solve an issue that I care about and have the means to help solve.

Can you share with us your experience with your YAC project?

My experience with my YAC project has been a fruitful and enjoyable one. The workshops that I attended really helped to provide me with some context of existing efforts, the current state of mental well-being in youth, how good my ideas were, and how effective my solutions could be. The mentors also provided my team with plenty of valuable feedback and guided us when we struggled to develop practical ideas. 

As an inexperienced product owner and front-end developer in my team, I learnt to be decisive when I had to make the call for a project shift when our problem statement wasn’t clear and specific enough. I also gained quite a lot of insight in designing and prototyping when we consulted one of our mentors. Her feedback enabled me to develop a prototype that I am confident our future users will like. 

I’m also grateful for my teammates, who have been my close friends since secondary school. As a team, we invested more time and effort into this project than we had previously imagined. The delegation of work, communicating, managing disputes and providing feedback were also easy and enjoyable.

What are some challenges you faced while working on your YAC project?

Initially, we struggled to develop a specific and valid problem statement. That resulted in us spending a lot of time redoing our white paper and prototype. Thankfully, we referred to our workshop lessons and approached our mentors for advice. We then researched, conducted surveys, and deliberated over multiple solutions before eventually settling for one. This meant that we had a much less time to produce our current solution. 

I also had to juggle between school and this project. It was difficult for me as I had to cope with two huge commitments. Thankfully, I had an understanding team and helpful classmates. Eventually, we managed to share a working prototype with the judging panel.

Were there any key takeaways or learning points from your time with YAC?

I learnt about listening well. I have learnt so much from paying attention to the workshops, mentors, and the professionals we consulted. As someone who has little to no experience in mental health, project and app development, I truly valued and appreciated everyone’s help.

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