Briar Patel is the country's top technology student - earning the Top of Subject Scholarship Award.

Briar, 17, a Year 13 student at Aquinas College this year, took NCEA Level 3 subject product development last year when only 16 and did so well she was the only student in the country to score 24 out of 24 in the technology scholarship exam.

Barrie Wickens (right), Kaka St Special School principal, and student Dylan try the product designed by Briar Patel.
Barrie Wickens (right), Kaka St Special School principal, and student Dylan try the product designed by Briar Patel.

Throughout last year, Briar spent her time in the product development class to find a way to meet the needs of a group in the community requiring help.

After considering a variety of groups, Briar chose to develop a product for Kaka St Special School students for entertainment purposes and provide some real-life experience.


She designed and built a mock pedestrian crossing to teach students how to use light-controlled crossings, and made a game of it.

Two students at each end push a button that looks just like a regular pedestrian-crossing button. When the light turns green, the students stamp on a button inside a tray. The tray fills with water and the student whose tray fills last, the "loser", is squirted with water.

Briar designed and built it all, including making valves with a 3D printer because the ones in the shops were unsuitable. She wired the electronics, with help from Tauranga store Kiatronics, and cut the shape of the pedestrian light "walking men" with a special machine.

Briar's teacher, Pete Nicholson, said when he rang her with her scholarship marks, he asked her to guess her score out of 24.

She guessed 10, and he kept saying higher, higher, until she got to 20 and was in tears.

Briar said she was grateful for Mr Nicholson's help.

She was offered an apprenticeship in cabinetry this year and was keen to take it up, but decided she should finish her last year of school.

Briar said cabinetry would be ideal as she enjoyed being a part of the whole technology process, from design to finished product. She is also considering going to university next year, but that would depend on finding a course that would allow her to do designing and building.


Outstanding Scholar Awards also went to Emily McCarthy, of Tauranga Girls' College, and James Taylor, of Tauranga Boys' College.

These students get $5000 each year for three years (for the top 40-60 students) as long as they maintain at least a "B" grade average in tertiary studies.