Designing and building an automated back scratcher to relieve back pain may have helped rocket Napier teenager Matthew Shepherd's future.
For there may well be rockets involved.
The Taradale High School 17-year-old has picked up a Special Award for Originality at the national Skills Bright Sparks 2019 awards — one of five special awards recipients among the 10 overall winners from the 28 students entered.
This year's awards were partnered with Rocket Lab — the company recognising that the Bright Sparks programme was a key to encouraging the next generation of New Zealanders to consider careers in engineering, innovation and, within that, space exploration.
Matthew was flown to Auckland for the awards evening and said while he felt confident he may pick something up he just wasn't sure.
"But I was hopeful."
He was also later delighted when he heard he had taken the Special Award for Originality.
"Yeah, quite amazing... they thought it (his device) was pretty interesting."
What made it all extra special was learning he would now be "buddied" with a hardware or software engineer — with that mentorship to be put in place when he and Rocket Lab establish the particular area of study that suits best to advance his current project and other projects he may look to work on.
A Skills Bright Sparks spokesperson said the main priority would be to pair Matthew with the right person within Rocket Lab.
"Whoever the mentor is, he or she will provide advice, encouragement and assistance with taking his project to the next level."
Matthew designed and built a strap on device to alleviate back pain, and used computer software, servo motors, appropriate apps and sophisticated linked moving parts.
"To work in with Rocket Lab is amazing and yeah, it's all a waiting game but I would be keen to get a job there," he said, adding that the world of engineering and mechatronics was what he was focused on.
He has also picked up a one-year scholarship to Auckland University next year to study general engineering and mechatronics — across an eventual four-year course.
"I'm really looking forward to it all," Matthew said, adding he had already had a great brush with the world of Rocket Lab — having watched a few rocket launches in the past.
The awards was a great evening for the wider family, with his younger cousin James Avenell from Alexandra taking the Top Junior Bright Spark Award for building a weed-killing robot.