Teen’s sophisticated drone invention wins Bright Sparks award

Published on the 30/10/2014 | Written by Newsdesk

Bright Sparks drone

Tauranga's 17-year old Callum Riddington has won the Baldwins supreme award at Bright Sparks 2014 for his invention, Kiwi Drones...

Bright Sparks, created by The Skills Organisation, describes itself as New Zealand’s premier competition for “bright young minds”. The programme, which was founded in 2000, aims to foster students aged 10-18 as they develop skills in technology, electronics and software, via an online forum, mentoring assistance and an annual competition.

This year’s supreme award was given to Callum Riddington for his control system for a working drone, called Kiwi Drones. It includes GPS mission plotting, stability control and a super-friendly user interface. Callum designed it all from scratch.

The 17-year-old Otemotai College student also hacked the code in an X-Box controller to use in Kiwi Drones, after deciding it was a more familiar, user-friendly device.

His inspiration came from a disatisfaction with current drone control systems.

“I tried out exisiting flight controllers and discovered they were expensive and bulky. I didn’t like the functionality, so I created my own,” he said.

Bright Sparks manager Ross Petersen said Callum’s invention stood out due to a high degree of complexity and its integration of hardware and software.

“Callum’s entry was incredibly sophisticated. He continued to refine it and his attention to detail was very impressive,” Petersen said.

“This fully functional project was created by a young inventor who strives for excellence in every direction.”

Callum says he often meets up with his mates to fly his drones and is always looking for ways to improve the technology.

He was presented the Bright Sparks 2014 Baldwins Supreme Award at a ceremony in Auckland on October 30, hosted by Dr Michelle Dickinson and attended by educators and industry representatives. He received a mentoring package from Baldwins as part of his prize.

Full list of Bright Sparks 2014 winners:

Supreme award, sponsored by Baldwins
Callum Riddington – Kiwi Drones (Otumoetai College, Tauranga)

17+ years, sponsored by Vend
1. Callum Riddington – Kiwi Drones (Otumoetai College, Tauranga)
2. Liam Cordelle – SCCAMS Cranes (Wakatipu High School, Queenstown)
3. Alistair Sharp – iTunes controller (Te Awamutu College, Te Awamutu)

15-16 years, sponsored by Education Perfect
1. Jonathan Everett – Electronic Yacht Foil (Whakatane High School)
2. William Wilks – Kea Cavitometer (Karamu High School, Hawkes Bay)
3. Nathan James – iDispense (Burnside High School, Christchurch)

13-14 years, sponsored by OMG Tech!
1. Issac Mercer – nOS infinity (Glendowie College, Auckland)
2. William Eldridge – Wireless inspection robot (Taradale High School, Hastings)
3. Issac Mercer – Raspberry Pi remote (Glendowie College, Auckland)

12 years and under, sponsored by Workchoice Trust
1. William Wilks – Remember Me (Home school, Hastings)
2. Thomas James – Open Sesame (Merrin School, Christchurch)
3. Hayden Schmidt – Robo Helper (Northcross Intermediate, Auckland)

Senior Best Work In Progress, sponsored by Vodafone
Nathan James – iDispense ( Burnside High School, Christchurch)

Junior Best Work In Progress, sponsored by ElectroFlash
Louis Hewitson-Townley – Audible Dog Locator (Farm Cove Intermediate, Auckland)

Senior Software Award, sponsored by Tait Communications
Kerman Kohli – Homework App Sync (Macleans College, Auckland)

Junior Software Award, sponsored by IITP NZ
Issac Mercer – nOS infinity (Glendowie College, Auckland)

People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Chorus
Louis Hewitson-Townley – Audible Dog Locator (Farm Cove Intermediate, Auckland)

For more information about each of the finalists, click here.

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