Despite scoring eight points for his N levels and qualifying for the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP), he chose to go to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) instead.
Mr Rayner Eng, 19, took up a Higher Nitec in mechatronics engineering, a two-year programme, at ITE College West.
He graduated with a perfect grade point average of 4.0 last year, and was awarded the IES Engineering Award.
Sponsored by the Institute of Engineers (IES), Singapore, it is given to the top graduate from an engineering course.
Mr Eng told The New Paper: "My seniors in the PFP said it was mostly theory-based. So, I decided to go to ITE because it would provide me with the basic hands-on and fundamental skills of engineering, which was what I wanted."
The first-year aeronautical engineering student at Singapore Polytechnic was inspired to be an engineer as he was an avid robot collector as a child. He joined his school's Robotics Club in Primary 4.
In his first year at ITE, he and two classmates were shortlisted by lecturers to do a project for Wildlife Reserves Singapore and the Singapore Zoo.
They had to find a faster way to slice fish for animal feeding, shows and training.
Mr Eng said they created a machine with five blades that sliced fish into six pieces in six seconds. It can slice up to 90kg of fish in an hour.
He added: "The project took about seven months to complete, and was tedious as we had to create everything from scratch."
They had to present their computer-aided draft to their lecturer for approval before buying materials to build the machine.
He said: "We presented about seven times, and each time there were minor details that needed to be adjusted. I was quite frustrated but we managed to perfect it in the end."
Their invention won three awards - the Energy Innovation Challenge in 2015, and the Lee Kuan Yew Technology Award and Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors Award last year.
Mr Joseph Heng, senior lecturer-mentor at the mechatronics engineering department in ITE College West, said: "He went to ITE to get a strong engineering foundation, and ITE has offered him that."
This article was first published on Jan 4, 2017.
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