Young inventors sparkle with ideas

A 17-year-old from Christchurch who designed a robotic Rubik's Cube solver out of Lego and iceblock sticks is New Zealand's brightest young spark.

Burnside High School student James Watson is the overall winner of the Bright Sparks competition, announced by Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown at an awards ceremony at the city's council chambers last night.

The competition was created by The Skills Organisation in 2000 to encourage young people into electronics.

Some of this year's entries included a voice-activated remote control, and a cellphone app for supermarket shopping that alerts you when you pass an item on your list.

James received a $1000 cash prize, and the opportunity to be mentored throughout his first year of tertiary study by a patent attorney.

He told judges he knew how to solve Rubik's cubes, but he wanted to build a robot to help those who couldn't. With Lego, iceblock sticks, hot glue, and brains, he did it.

He plans to study embedded electronics and programming at Canterbury University in 2014, and is already doing one paper to get a head start.

Category winners are:

Up to 12 years: Nicholas Wilks, home-schooled, an automatic bullseye target practice game.

13-14: William Wilks, Karamu High School, Bluetooth toaster, controllable by smartphone.

15-16: Sam Mathews, Morrinsville College, bituser automated cloud communication device.

17+: James Watson, Burnside High School, Rubik's Cube solver.

People's Choice Award: Matthew Bridle, Hauraki Plains College, point-to-point emergency text communication.

The Press