To say Bert Downs is a nice young man is an understatement. On Friday he was named Te Awamutu College 2019 Dux Litterarum — the school's top academic student.

After the awards I heard him tell friends he felt a bit sorry for Nirav Patel who was named Proxime Accessit.

Bert's logic was that Nirav was Year 13, whereas he (Bert) was only Year 12.

His friends wisely reminded Bert he had taken six Level 3 NCEA subjects — and topped five of them.


Bert was earlier awarded top of subject for Level 3 physics, accounting, electronics,
digital technology and maths. He was top of his class for his sixth subject chemistry, beaten to top of subject by Nirav who was in the other chemistry class.

Dux Litterarum was sponsored by Canon and included a $3000 cash award. He also received the University of Waikato Ko Te Tangata (Waikato Schools) Scholarship ($5000) and a Special Award for Outstanding Success in a National Competition — The Skills Organisation's Brightsparks.

His academic acceleration started when he took Level 1 maths in Year 10, then Level 2 maths and digital technology in Year 11 alongside his other Level 1 subjects.

Last year he received the Bouma Trophy for Academic Excellence as the top Year 11 student.

This year he skipped all remaining Level 2 subjects for all Level 3.

He says he thought he would be in the running for Dux but didn't want to get his hopes up because he was a Year 12 student and wasn't sure what the rules were.

Bert also plays trombone and is a member of Senior Band and has played for Jazz Band and is a member of the magazine committee.

But academics, especially electronics, is his passion.


He says he enjoys learning, enjoys challenges and likes to succeed.

Bert enjoys projects that challenge his thinking and doesn't mind if he has to spend extra time problem solving to come up with a new solution.

These are all attributes that will hold him in good stead as he leaves high school following his exams and starts his software engineering degree at Waikato University.

Bert isn't sure what this will lead to, but hopes it will open the door and give him plenty of options for a career in technology or computing.