Lego, popsicle sticks and brains wins Watson top award

Tuesday 6th November 2012

James Watson (17)  from Burnside High School in Christchurch has been declared grand winner of the 2012 Bright Sparks Awards.

He received the Bright Sparks - Baldwins Intellectual Property Young Inventor of the Year Award – $1000 cash and a year of mentoring from Duncan Schaut, one of the firm’s patent attorneys.

James Watson with Duncan Schaut

The Bright Sparks competition is run by The Skills Organisation to encourage young people to experience electronics directly through a project-based approach. Since the year 2000 smart kids as young as 9 to 18 from all over the country have created amazing and imaginative inventions in a bid to win their age category.

James’ invention,  George the Rubik’s Cube Solver, is an amazing robot that is made out of popsicle sticks and Lego and is capable of solving a Rubik’s Cube on its own – all you need to do is enter the panel arrangement and click go.
“I’ve been able to solve the Rubik’s Cube for a few years now and I always wondered if I could make a robot do the same thing.”

James received his award in Wellington, at an awards evening held at the Council Chambers, and attended by a mix of other finalists, parents, teachers, technology industry leaders, university and community leaders, and politicians.

The standard of projects this year was outstanding, with some truly dazzling examples of young kiwi ingenuity – examples of other projects include a website to help children with Down Syndrome, a toaster you can operate with your smartphone, a home-made 3D Printer and a clever trolley that will alert you when you’re close to an item on your shopping list.

To view all the Bright Sparks projects in action, including video and information about the inventors, visit

George the Rubik’s Cube Solver

James Watson and George the Rubik’s Cube Solver


Finalists and guest presenters

Overall winners

1st Overall (and winner of the 2012 Bright Sparks - Baldwins Intellectual Property Young Inventor of the Year Award): James Watson, Burnside High School, George the Rubik’s Cube Solver
Best Work in Progress – Junior: Te Kura Toitu o Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi , Rainforest Climate Model
Best Work in Progress – Senior: Huba Nagy, Cashmere High School, 3D printer
People’s Choice Award (determined by public online voting):  Matthew Bridle, Hauraki Plains College, Point-to-Point Emergency Text Communicator

In the age categories

12 years and under
1st place: Nicholas Wilks, Homeschool, Bulls-eye Target
2nd place: Caitlin Ryan and Jade Graham, Fairfield Intermediate, Intelligent Auto Bike Light

13 – 14 years
1st place: William Wilks, Karamu High School, Bluetooth Toast
2nd place:  Nathan James, Burnside High School, Smart Trolley
3rd equal: Jenna Bellve and Abbey Silsons, Opunake High School, Remote Weather Stations
3rd equal:  Molly Balding, Northcross Intermediate, Makaton Website

15 - 16 years
1st place:  Sam Mathews, Morrinsville College, Bituser Automated Cloud Communication Device
2nd equal:  Harrison Carnell, Pakuranga College, Radio-Controlled Sumobot
2nd equal:  Aaron Wong, Mt Roskill Grammar School, Time Map
3rd place:  Jonathan Abplanalp, Opunake High School, Volcano Alert

17+  years
1st place:  James Watson, Burnside High School, George the Rubik’s Cube Solver
2nd equal:  Juan Robertson, Hamilton Boys High School, Robotic Pull Focus Unit
2nd equal:  Fabian Cook, Tararua College, Modular Connection
3rd equal: Sohail Abdulla, Mt Roskill Grammar School, Glass Cleaner Robot
3rd equal:  Conor King, Mt Roskill Grammar School, Blurb 2012
For more information or to feature one of these talented youngsters,  please contact Christina Campbell, Communications Adviser from The Skills Organisation, on 09 583 1343, mob 027 413 5927 or

Bright Sparks

Bright Sparks is an initiative from The Skills Organisation that aims to develop a strong pool of talent to propel the future growth of its industries. Bright Sparks works directly with schools and young people to get them on the pathway to a rewarding electrotechnology career. There are over 2300 active members of the Bright Sparks website and email club and more than 150 secondary schools are currently involved in the Bright Sparks programme. For more information visit

The Skills Organisation

The Skills Organisation is an industry training organisation responsible for ensuring skilled people are available to work in fifteen key industries. Recognised by government and our industries as the national standards setting body, The Skills Organisation works with industry to develop skill standards and qualifications, manage national training systems, provide skills leadership and subsidise industry engagement in national qualifications training. For more information visit

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