Von Neumann, Torvalds, and Markov. What’s the story behind these esteemed scientists? Who are they and what significant contributions prompted us to name our rooms after them?

Room 1. von Neumann

After his work with the atomic bomb, von Neumann died of cancer at the age of 53. (Photo from Wikipedia)

We named our first room after John von Neumann (28 December 1903 – 8 February 1957), a Hungarian-born American mathematician and physicist who is known as “the last representative of the great mathematicians” [1]. His contributions include revolutionising aspects of mathematics and physics, economics, statistics, with roles in the invention of the atomic bomb, nuclear energy and digital computing [2].

A visual representation of what the von Neumann Architecture described. (Adapted from Wikipedia)

Best known for: von Neumann Architecture a.k.a. von Neumann model or Princeton Architecture [3]

  • Includes descriptions that form the fundamentals of modern digital stored-program computers
  • Proposed that there would be a processing unit (contains arithmetic / logic unit and processor registers) and a control unit (with the instruction register and program counter)
  • Suggested that there would be a memory unit to store data and instructions, external storage, and input and output mechanisms.

“Can we survive technology? … To ask in advance for a complete recipe would be unreasonable. We can specify only the human qualities required: patience, flexibility, intelligence.” [4]

Did you know? von Neumann was initially supposed to pursue Chemical Engineering – his father had discouraged him from studying Mathematics as he believed that it would not earn him much [5].

Room 2. Torvalds

Torvalds has an estimated net worth of US$150 million today – even though Linux is free [6].

Linus Benedict Torvalds (born 28 December 1969) is a Finnish computer scientist responsible for developing the Linux operating systems and free, open-source Git (the foundational software of GitHub) [7].

Tux, the penguin mascot and logo of Linux.

Best known for: Linux Operating Systems [8]

  • As a computer science student, he made improvements for Minix and UNIX operating systems
  • Unsatisfied, he created Linux and published the free source code online for anyone to make modifications
  • It became popular in the late 1990s and is now commonly used in China and other non-Western countries.

“In real open source, you have the right to control your own destiny.”

Did you know? The passionate diver co-designed and developed Subsurface, a free and open-source software for logging and planning scuba dives [9].

Room 3. Markov

Until his death at the age of 66 from health complications, Markov taught probability courses at the University of St. Petersberg.

Andrey Andreyevich Markov (June 14, 1856 – July 20, 1922), a Russian mathematician responsible for number theory, probability theory, and the Markov Brothers’ inequality (with his younger brother and fellow mathematician, Vladimir Markov) [10, 11].

Algorithms based on Markov Chains are at work every time a search engine returns with recommendations of relevant webpages [12].

Best known for: Markov Chains [13, 14]

  • It’s a theory of stochastic processes, which is a probability theory of a process involving the operation of chance [15].
  • It tells you about mathematical systems that change from one ‘state’ (a situation or set of values) to another – with the probability of this transition.
  • Used in economics, game theory, queueing (communication) theory, genetics, and finance.

“Mathematics to a considerable extent consists in solving problems, [and] together with proper discussion, [this] can be of the highest scientific nature…” [16]

Did you know? His son, Andrey Markov Jr. (1903 – 1979), was also a renowned mathematician with notable contributions in topology, topological algebra, dynamical systems, theory of algorithms and constructive mathematics [17].

We hope that you have enjoyed our Unravelling The Mystery series and that we have piqued your curiosity into some of the greatest computer scientists and contributors to modern computer science! You can read about the faces behind our Parkway Parade Room Names by clicking here.

(Written by Cheryl Tang)

There’s no doubt that computing/programming is becoming more and more of a fundamental skill needed to thrive in this digital age. This is why there has been an increase in the number of schools offering Computing as an O-Level and A-Level subject.

Does your Secondary School child have an interest in coding? Or are you a student yourself, interested in learning more about coding in the long run? 

We have collated a list of schools below that offer IB, O-Level and A-Level Computing. 

Secondary 2 is the time where students will have to go through streaming to choose their desired subject combination in upper secondary. In most cases, schools require students to do well in their English and Mathematics in order to be able to apply for Computing. Here are the schools which offer ‘O’ level Computing:

O-Level Computing (22 schools)

Admiralty Secondary School 

Boon Lay Secondary School 

Bukit View Secondary School 

Chung Cheng High School (Yishun) 

Clementi Town Secondary School 

Commonwealth Secondary School 

Holy Innocents’ High School 

Junyuan Secondary School 

Jurong West Secondary School 

Maris Stella High School 

Pathlight School 

Peirce Secondary School 

School of Science and Technology, Singapore 

Serangoon Secondary School 

Springfield Secondary School 

St. Patrick’s Secondary School 

Xinmin Secondary School 

Zhonghua Secondary School 

Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) 

Montfort Secondary School 

Ngee Ann Secondary School 

Temasek Secondary School

ib blog 2

Need help with O-Level Computing? We offer small group tuition for Secondary 3 and 4 Computing students. Check out our classes here.

Here are the schools which offer ‘A’ level Computing:

A-Level Computing (8 schools) 

Anglo-Chinese Junior College 

Dunman High School

Hwa Chong Institution

Jurong Pioneer Junior College

Nanyang Junior College

National Junior College

River Valley Junior College 

Yishun Innova Junior College 

On the International Baccalaureate (IB) track? The International Baccalaureate (IB) programme offers two course levels for Computer Science: the Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL). Below’s a list of the schools that offer the course:

IB Computing 

Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) – HL only 

Australian International School – SL/HL

Dulwich College – SL/HL 

Global Indian International School – SL/HL 

NPS International School – SL/HL

Overseas Family School – SL/HL

St. Joseph’s Institution International – SL only 

Stamford American International School 

Tanglin Trust School 

United World College (UWC) SEA – SL/HL 

Excel IB Computer Science with us! We offer 1-1 customised IB Java tutoring and are always ready to lend a helping hand – check out our classes here

We hope that with these lists of schools, you’ll be able to make better informed decisions regarding your selection of school. Never stop learning and keep on coding!

(Written by Zulaikha)

Fun Techtivities in June!

Looking for more things to keep you and your family occupied? Keep the curious sparks of your young techies’ minds alive with our online techtivities, inspiring and showing them the endless possibilities of technology during this Covid-19 period!

Google Maps Treks

Missed travelling and the great outdoors? From the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt to the Amazon Basin in Brazil, you can now make your way around some of the world’s greatest sights with Google Maps Treks!

Price: Free
To access it, click here.


Always wanted to attend one of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s (SSO) events? They’ve now gone digital, airing three to four performances in a week. This includes both old and new video and audio concerts, never-before-released recordings, live-streamed performances from musicians at the Victoria Concert Hall and the SSO’s Rose Studio recording facilities.

Sneak Peak: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy

We know you're all excited for Saturday's YouTube premiere of The Planets at 8pm, but don't forget the concert begins at 7.30pm with Beethoven's sparkling Choral Fantasy!Easiest way to remember: youtube.com/singaporesymphony – join in our livechat and countdown before 7.30pm, Sat, 2 May!

Posted by Singapore Symphony Orchestra on Friday, 1 May 2020

Until end of June
Price: Free
To view the online events, click here.

Online Coding Camps

Want to engage in something productive or pick up a skill this month? Let your child learn coding from home this May Holidays! We bring our award-winning curriculum to your home, delivered LIVE by our tutors.

For the month of May
To view the classes, click here.

You can use the promo code UNITEDWESTAND to get 10% off all our classes (limited time only). We’re missing bubble tea, eating out and going to gyms as much as you are, but just stay home and stay safe during this period!

If you haven’t seen our previous techtivity recommendations, check out Harvard’s courses, NLB’s resources and other May techtivities here!

(Written by Cheryl Tang)

Meet 13-year-old Ziv. A creative and fast learner, he picked up coding when he was 11 and hasn’t looked back since. He was part of a team that won the code::XtremeApps:: (CXA) 2019 Hackathon (Junior Category) by IMDA and was in the Top 10 Finalists of the Young Coders Global Hackathon 2020.

Photo of Ziv with a sunset
A boy with geeky humour, the Yew Tee Primary School alumnus is now learning as much as he can about Python before proceeding to Java and C++ coding. Photo courtesy of Ziv.

Hi Ziv, how did you get started on coding?

Mum felt that I spent too much time on computer games, so she signed me up for classes and later realised that I have a flair for coding. I truly enjoy my lessons at Coding Lab and have since developed a passion for programming, aspiring to use my skills as a Game Developer or White Hat Hacker.

Ziv’s Mother added, “Frankly speaking, Ziv naturally fits into coding as he is good in Math and Science. He is now focused on his journey to becoming a Game Developer or White Hat Hacker, and I’m glad I made the correct choice when he was in P5.”

Note: White Hat Hackers are ethical hackers, using their skills for security to protect against threats or other hackers.

“Coding can be hard. … You should also commit your free time for coding so as to improve. Most importantly, you need to have a passion for programming.”

What do you like most about coding? Why?

What I like most is that I can do anything limited by only my imagination and knowledge. This means that I can do whatever I want, I can also do things that are impossible in the real world. So far, my experience at Coding Lab has been good. I learnt a lot of things on Scratch, MIT App Inventor, Micro:Bit and Python thanks to my mentors.

I am now learning Python, which is a big jump from all the other coding languages I’ve used. Simply because I have to type out all the codes instead of using blocks. Just an additional bracket could lead to a big error. Despite the big jump, I am able to learn most of the things thanks to the teachers’ guidance.

Ziv’s team, Eagle Eye, receiving their award. Photo from CodeXtremeApps.

How did your Coding Lab mentors guide you for CXA 2019? What are your key takeaways from the competition?

We encountered a lot of problems, but thankfully, we were able to debug it. By applying what our Coding Lab mentors had guided us to do in our regular classes, we managed to overcome the glitches we faced. Most importantly I had lots of fun participating with the team!

What advice would you give to young coders who are new to programming?

Coding can be hard. You will learn how to debug and think logically. If you encounter problems, you should ask the teacher for help. You should also commit your free time for coding so as to improve. Most importantly, you need to have a passion for programming.

Ziv presenting his team's game to the judges at the CXA 2019
Ziv presenting his team’s game to the judges at the CXA 2019.

Ziv Lim, 13, is a Secondary One student at Zhonghua Secondary School. He started off with our Scratch 1 class in 2018, has since completed our ScratchYoung Computer Scientists and MIT App Inventor classes, and is currently picking up Python.

The Champion of the CXA 2019 and Top 10 Finalist of the Young Coders Global Hackathon 2020 is constantly seeking improvement with the goal of becoming a Game Developer or White Hat Hacker. His enthusiasm for coding is evident, going beyond what is taught in class, and continuously demonstrating his creativity and ability to think on his feet. We’re glad that such a bright young student like Ziv began his coding journey with us at Coding Lab!

(Written by Cheryl Tang)