SP team sets new Guinness World Record
Trio make a 'cannon' that fires a ping pong ball nearly 21/2 times faster than the speed of sound
He did badly in his A-level examinations in 2013 and failed to advance to university.
Today, Mr Teo Shao Zun, 25, is a proud graduate from Singapore Polytechnic (SP) with a perfect grade point average of four, and also a Guinness World Record (GWR) holder.
Together with fellow graduate Mr Phua Shin Zert, 20, and mechanical and aeronautical engineering lecturer Mr Leong Ying Wei, 36, Mr Teo is part of a team from the Mechanical Engineering school at SP who recently set a GWR for the fastest speed achieved by a ping pong ball.
Attempting the feat on April 10 this year, they fired a ping pong ball at 833.33m/s or 2.43 times the speed of sound. It was verified as a new record on July 11, beating the speed of 806m/s previously set by a US father-son team.
The record stemmed from the students' final-year project in collaboration with a local defence industry partner. The goal was to launch supersonic projectiles for high-acceleration mechanical shock testing without the use of combustion or pyrotechnics.
The team put together a "cannon", dubbed as the mechanical accelerator device (MAD), which fires ping pong balls at targets using common gases.
MAD uses high-pressured air combined with the low resistance in a vacuum to accelerate the ping pong ball to supersonic speeds. Plastic sheets are placed between two main tubes to let air pressure build up on one side before breaking, letting the pressurised air propel the ball.
The 6m-long device is based off a prototype made by a previous batch of SP students and uses an improved suction pump and 3D-printed nozzle.
It took six months to complete and enhances the safety and accessibility of such shock tests.
Mr Leong, who supervised the project, said: "Normally if you want to reach such a high acceleration value, it involves using pyrotechnics or combustibles. But this time round, there's no heat at all."
Mr Phua added: "It's also relatively cheap compared to using pyrotechnics."
The team hopes the device will become a widely adopted method for high acceleration mechanical shock testing in the near future.
Mr Teo and Mr Phua are now pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, respectively.
Mr Phua chose to take engineering as he is into physics and mathematics.
"I figured it out in secondary school. Now, engineering has become something I like to do."
Similarly, Mr Teo has found his passion and has big plans for the future.
"I love to create and design. Looking ahead, I hope to work in the defence industry."