Bright Sparks science award for making fitness fun

Balmacewen Intermediate pupil Bill Campbell (front) with his ASB Bright Sparks science award and...
Balmacewen Intermediate pupil Bill Campbell (front) with his ASB Bright Sparks science award and fellow pupil Whetu Price-Koopu (13). Photo: Gregor Richardson
For athletes, beep tests can be gruelling and tedious.

But Balmacewen Intermediate pupil Bill Campbell has invented a way to make the cardiovascular fitness test more entertaining.

And in doing so, the 13-year-old has won the 2017 ASB Bright Sparks science division at an awards ceremony in Auckland this week.

Beep tests are used by many international sporting teams as an accurate test of cardiovascular fitness.

It involves athletes running continuously between two points, 20m apart.

The runs are synchronised with laptop software, which plays beeps at set intervals.

As the test proceeds, the interval between each successive beep gets shorter, forcing the athletes to increase their speed over the course of the test.

Bill has taken the test and enhanced it by adding lights, music and sensors to automatically detect when runners cross the line. He calls it the Gamified Beep Test.

"The beep test is so hard and boring — it really sucks.

"I thought I could make athletes do better by making it more fun for them."

He said his system had a 20m-long row of lights that moved along the ground alongside the runner, showing the pace of their personal best speed.

He hoped it would inspire athletes to beat their personal best times on the test.

"It’s something to race against."

Bill hoped the Gamified Beep Test would become a regular part of training for sports teams like the All Blacks. But for now, he was happy to keep perfecting it.

"It’s still in its prototype stages at the moment, but maybe, one day ..."

The Bright Sparks awards programme nurtures and recognises brilliant young minds across New Zealand intermediate and secondary schools.

This year’s supreme innovator award co-winners were Brian Kitchen (13), of Auckland, who invented a laser scanner that creates three-dimensional models of lava caves; and Kate McIntosh (12), of Auckland, who created a Wireless Whistle which sends a signal to a vibrating wristband to help hearing-impaired athletes play team sports.

Other standout entries in this year’s competition were Ormiston Senior College pupil Dylan Townsend (17) with his Concussion Conundrum programme which detects and records movement on the sports field to alert coaches when an athlete is involved in a potentially concussion-causing incident; and Papanui High School pupil Michael Hann (18) with his  TEMS  natural disaster security system.

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