A Tauranga boy has taken out a top national award for his creation of an app that encourages those with depression or anxiety to seek help.

The Skills Bright Sparks is New Zealand's longest-running national competition for young inventors, open to intermediate and high school-aged students.

The competition had entries from across a broad spectrum of digital, engineering and creative technologies.

An app that helps kick teens out of the shower, a scanner that 'reads' colours and an app that helps towards suicide prevention topped the awards for 2019.


Will Waters, an Otumoetai College student, won the Special Award for Health & Wellbeing for his app Lifeboat.

Waters designed the app to help those who suffer from depression or anxiety to build up the courage to ask for help as he himself suffers from anxiety.

He also wanted to do something to address New Zealand's high suicide rate.

This year, the judges noticed that a large number of entries were clearly focused on addressing environmental concerns.

"It was evident that many of our students are focused on solutions to issues that impact our environment. It does suggest that the health of our planet is a major concern for Kiwi youth," Skills Group chief executive Garry Fissenden said.

The winners were announced at the Skills Bright Sparks awards ceremony at Datacom in Auckland.


Overall Best Female – Agam Aharon, Ponsonby Intermediate School (Year 8): Spectro Scanner


Overall Best Male – Adam Smith, Cashmere High School (Year 13): Waterwise App

People's Choice Award – Angelina Yang, Northcross Intermediate (Year 7): Table Tennis serving machine made from Lego

Top Junior Bright Spark – James Avenell, Alexandra Primary School (Year 8): Weed Killing Robot

Top Senior Bright Spark – Bert Downs, Te Awamutu College (Year 12): Extend Virtual Reality

Special Award: Health & Wellbeing – Will Waters, Otumoetai College (Year 10) : Lifeboat app for encouraging those with depression or anxiety to seek help

Special Award: Outstanding Engineering – Angelina Yang, Northcross Intermediate (Year 7): Table Tennis serving machine made from Lego

Special Award: Robotics – Thomas James, Burnside High School (Year 12): Wheelie Drive v.2

Special Award: Software – Brian Kitchen, Western Springs College (Year 10): Raspberry Fly, 3D scanner for modelling caves

Special Award: Originality – Matthew Shepherd, Taradale High School (Year 13): Scratch Pack automated back scratcher to alleviate back pain.

Emerging Potential – Jasmine Jared, Rangitoto College (Year 10): eBackpack