Chua Teck Koon - "Lost Boy" Comes Home
His Mechanical Engineering course at Singapore Polytechnic was disrupted in 1991 due to financial problems. Sixteen years later, Chua Teck Koon, 41, completed the Diploma in Marine Engineering course and topped his cohort. For this, he was awarded the Chua Chor Teck Gold Medal.
After dropping out of the Polytechnic, Teck Koon worked to support his family and helped fund his two sisters' university education. When his sisters became financially independent, they told the former St Joseph's Institution student to go back to school.
Back in Singapore Polytechnic, Teck Koon lost no time in making the most of student life. He did not aim to be a top student but clinched 38 As and distinctions for his three-year course. "All I wanted was to enjoy school life again. Doing well was an unexpected bonus," he said.
And Teck Koon did have a great time. "The three years in SP are the best years of my life." He was actively involved in the Yacht Club and Archery Club, representing the Polytechnic in these sports twice. He picked up diving and motor boating which came in useful during a marine conservation project at Labrador Jetty in 2006. He enjoyed his six-week stint on a tanker and the 400 hours he spent in the marine workshop, designing and building his final-year project, a wave-motion hydraulic generator.
Teck Koon was also involved in humanitarian and community projects. After the Asian tsunami, he repaired electrical fixtures, the plumbing and an autoclave at two Sri Lankan hospitals in January 2005. He was part of a team of students and staff who went to the Philippines in May 2005 to do electrification works for homes of underprivileged people in Iloilo province.
It was a memorable expedition as they engaged in physically draining work like digging trenches. "It was more challenging than digging foxholes during NS because of the heat and dust." But he was back in the Philippines this year for more. This time, the Singapore Polytechnic team helped to build a community hall for the same housing project.
"All my life, I've had to look after myself and family. Now that I don't, I shall try helping others in need," he explained. "It brings me satisfaction as an engineer, that my knowledge and skills can make their lives better."
Does he regret the "lost" years? "No. What I went through made me a better person, more determined," he replied. "I lost nothing. I found my identity and character."
The same determination is driving Teck Koon to further his studies. "I want to see how far I can go."
- Chua Chor Teck Gold Medal
- Society of Naval Architects & Marine Engineers Gold Medal
- Shell Companies in Singapore Prize
- Keppel Offshore & Marine Prize
- Singapore Maritime Employers' Federation Prize