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Kid Inventor Toby Heeringa Wins $10,000 Prize

Toby Heeringa is New Zealand's young inventor of 2007, wins $10,000 prize

The 11-year-old Auckland boy beat 600 other inventors to take the grand prize in this year's Let's Get Inventin' programme, the final of which screened on TV2 at 5pm today.

Toby's Choo Choob invention - a device which makes an asthma inhaler look like a train and therefore appealing to children - earned him a $10,000 prize package which could see him become one of the youngest manufacturers in the country.

The prize includes $6000 worth of patent advice from international patent lawyers AJ Park, and $4000 of business start-up advice from the Ice House accelerator programme.

"The idea is to have adults taking kids and their ideas seriously, and making working prototypes that can go on to be manufactured," said programme co-founder Neil Stichbury.

"Toby's idea is absolutely brilliant, and we've heard that people have been trying to buy his Choo Choobs since seeing them on Let's Get Inventin' back in November."

As a small child, asthmatic Toby hated his inhaler. He says that he would have liked it better if it had looked like something fun, like a train, and the idea for the Choo Choob was born.

He says that winning the grand prize was one of the most exciting moments of his life.

"It's amazing - really cool," he said. "I'm definitely going to do more inventing - I've got lots of ideas."

Toby was one of 600 young inventors from across the country who entered this year's Let's Get Inventin' competition. Fourteen inventions were selected to be developed by the inventing team. Toby's prototype was developed with help from Fisher and Paykel Healthcare's engineers.

The four top inventions went into a Dragon's Den-type final, where the young inventors had to pitch their ideas to a panel made up of patent lawyer Anton Blijilevens of AJ Park, business mentor Duna Ledwith of the Ice House, and successful inventor Kent Hodgson.

Toby was presented with his prize by Prime Minister Helen Clark, who described all four young inventors as the future of New Zealand.

"New Zealand needs smart people with smart ideas, new ideas," she told the four finalists. "You are what makes this country a great country, for the future."

The other young finalists were:

Melanie Ansell, New Plymouth, with the Gyminator, a device that harnesses the power generated by bouncing on trampolines and by bicycles.

Andrew Wordsworth, Whangarei, with the Acoustic Apparel, a suit which when plugged into an MP3 player generates lights and vibrations like those experienced at a rock concert. Eldon Bennett, Waiuku, and his the Electronic Moneybox, which counts your savings and displays an electronically-generated picture of what you're saving for.

All finalists got prize packs from Dick Smith Electronics.

Entries for the next series of Let's Get Inventin' close on January 30. Information for young inventors wanting to enter is at


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