Two 12-year-old Tauranga boys have designed a device to stop petrol drive-offs - an invention that has landed them a flurry of awards and long-term, they hope, will prove to be a money spinner.
Seumas Beedie and Ari Hemmingsen of Otumoetai Intermediate are in the process of trying to patent their design, Petrol Patrol.
It initially works by a car pulling up to a petrol pump and driving on to a pressure pad.
The action activates a green "tyre light" on both a control panel and the pump, to notify the driver they have driven on to the pad correctly.
Five seconds later, a barrier rises from underneath, immobilising the vehicle.
Two red pump lights then change to green to indicate the petrol pump is ready to use.
Seumas and Ari say once the customer has filled up, a red light indicates that payment needs to be made.
After payment, the cashier will push a button, the petrol pump will lock again and the barrier will retract, allowing the customer to drive off. The lights return to normal. The process is automatic with card payments at the pump.
There is an override button used by the cashier to allow use by motorbikes.
The system took the boys a significant amount of time to devise, with many a weekend given up to perfect the prototype.
Seumas and Ari interviewed petrol station managers and researched petrol drive-offs to guide their design.
"If you don't lose petrol, you don't lose money ... it would be quick to install in the ground, it's not complicated for the cashier to run, nor is it too much of an inconvenience for the motorist," Ari said.
The boys wrote software for the electronics and had a mentor in Ari's dad, Ian, an electrical engineer.
"We did all the soldering ourselves," Seumas added.
It wasn't until after they had made a prototype that the boys checked to make sure their idea was original.
They discovered a similar device operates in the UK, called Drivestop, but is cashier operated only.
Spikes rip tyres if the vehicle moves (with Seumas and Ari's design the vehicle can't move) and it is expensive to install, costing up to £10,000 ($25,500) at each pump.
The Otumoetai boys are confident their design will take them a long way and grinned eagerly when asked if they hoped they would make money.
"Well, that would be nice," Ari said.
Their invention won them a distinction in their school science fair and the second overall technology project title in the Bay of Plenty Regional Science and Technology Fair last month.
They also took out the Hayes International Award for design and innovation and the Tauranga branch of the Institute of Professional Engineers in New Zealand award, an accolade designed to help raise the profile of engineering among young students. For their efforts they received $500 for their school.
Next stop is the 2008 Bright Sparks HiTech Awards competition in October.
The boys are also keen to hear from any petrol station owners or managers who can offer feedback or advice. They can be contacted at Otumoetai Intermediate on 576 5105.