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‘It’s My Life’ winners to help make NZ smokefree

March 24, 2014

‘It’s My Life’ winners to help make NZ smokefree

A Fiordland high school student has been named the supreme winner of Massey University’s ‘It’s My Life’ competition for an innovative app that will help young people to quit smoking and stay smokefree.

The nationwide competition asked New Zealanders aged between 12 and 24 to create a poster, video or app that inspired young people to support a smokefree New Zealand by 2025.

Seventeen-year-old Nicholas Humphries from Fiordland College created the Quit Toolbox, a fully functional smart phone app for Android using Titanium Appcelerator, an open source software development kit.

The judges said the sophisticated app was an impressive achievement for someone still at school, especially given that Nicholas had written all the programming himself.

The Quit Toolbox features include a ‘Commit to Quit’ button, tips delivered by SMS, links to smokefree organisations and information, a direct dial to Quitline, and interfaces with social media so those trying to give up can share their successes and call on their networks for support when needed.

Nicholas said he was ecstatic to win both the high school category and the overall prize, which brought his total prize money to $2,100.

“I’m completely self-taught and while I’ve been programming in my spare time for about four years to create Android apps, this is the first time I have worked with software that can create both Android and IOS apps,” he said. “I’m thinking about using some of my prize money to buy a Mac so I can create IOS apps in the future.”

After teaching himself to use Titanium Appcelerator, Nicholas estimates it took him two weeks to develop the Quit Toolbox. He is definitely considering a career in software engineering.

The ‘It's My Life’ competition was part of a broader Massey University campaign and research project funded by the Ministry of Health to create smokefree messages for youth, by youth. The project has funding to develop Nicholas’ design into a useable app that will become publicly available.

He will be mentored by Massey multimedia systems engineering expert Associate Professor Wyatt Page and the Ministry of Health has agreed to explore the opportunities for using and promoting the app.

“I’m so excited about the opportunity to be mentored and to get this app to a stage where it’s useful to people,” Nicholas said. “This competition was absolutely perfect for me because it combined my interest in programming and technology with a desire to do something with real meaning.

“Smoking is such a negative thing so it’s satisfying to do something that can help. I’m happy to work on the app in my holidays so hopefully it can be released later this year.”

The winners of the ‘It’s My Life’ competition will be announced at a series of Smokefree Summits on Massey’s three campuses, which will include international speakers, bands, games, smokefree organisation stands and giveaways. The aim, says summit project leader Associate Professor Elspeth Tilley, is to convey a serious message in a way that young people will respond to positively.

“The point of this whole project is to reach out to young New Zealanders and encourage them to become part of the global youth smokefree movement. Nothing like that exists in New Zealand and Kiwi youth need to be part of the conversation.”

The category winners of the ‘It’s My Life’ competition are:

Supreme winner: Nicholas Humphries from Fiordland College for his Quit Toolbox app

Community Youth Group category
Winner and People’s Choice: Rangiora Rocketeer Rangers for their video NZ Girl Guide Style.

Pasifika Youth category
Winner: Tiana Wilson from Wellington Girls College for her Future Generations poster.
Runner-up and People’s Choice: Tiana Weepu from Claudine Thevenet School for her collage How long can you live?

Intermediate School category
Winner and People’s Choice: Team BetterLife’s video Smokefree It’s My Life. The team was made up of Charlotte Barber and Frances Wright from Queen Margaret College.
Runner-up: Charlotte Tilley from Karori Normal School for her poster Why?

High School category
Winner: Nicholas Humphries from Fiordland College for his Quit Toolbox app
Runner-up: Ryan Hartman from Waimea College for his Be Free poster.
People’s Choice: Maria Irinco from Wellington Girls College for Smoking Kills the Planet.
Massey College of Business Scholarship for best use of Communication Theory: Sylvi Low from Wellington East Girls College for It’s Your Decision.
Certificate of Excellence: Hayley Fraser from Wellington East Girls College for her Smoke Free poster.
Certificate of Excellence: Jake Barnett from Wellington High School for his Who Needs Smoking? video.

Tertiary category
Winner: Georgia Jones from University of Canterbury for her Weave your own life app.
Runner-up: Julia Gardner from Auckland University for her Friendship poster.
People’s Choice: Fraser Gardner from AUT for his Katniss said No poster.

ENDS

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