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Kirby’s idea in the mix for NASA prize

Geoff Helisma | Come late November, nine-year-old Kirby Wright’s ‘little big idea’ could see him visiting NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in the USA. The St James Primary School, Yamba student was one of 12 finalists who attended a design workshop in Melbourne last Friday. At the workshop, the young inventors created prototypes of their ideas as part of their pitches to be crowned one of Origin’s littleBIGidea national winners. Kirby, who takes regular daily medication, says he doesn’t like taking his tablets, so he came up with an idea to make the medicine go down: the ‘Tablet Disguise’. A bit like the old ‘spoonful of sugar’, Kirby’s idea is to insert tablets into “edible chocolate slime” to make swallowing tablets easier. But it’s not just an idea for children; Kirby says it can be “especially useful for older people who may have trouble swallowing”. At the workshop, each of the finalists worked together and talked about their ideas. He says they each received their own electronic visitor tags and had a “fun time”. The St James teachers played their part, too, by encouraging all of the school’s students to come up with ideas, which were workshopped, and to enter the littleBIGidea competition. Kirby’s idea is a finalist in the Year 3 & 4 section. As one of 12 finalists selected from 3,000 entries across three categories (Years 3 & 4; 5 & 6; 7 & 8), he won $1,000 for his efforts. Now he has to make a video – the final pitch – which will complete his entry: winners are announced in late November. He is competing against three other Year 3 & 4 students whose ideas are: a watch to assist colour-blind people; a lunchbox that syncs with child’s parents’ phone; and, a timer that alerts parents to let them know the length of time their children have brushed their teeth. The workshop was hosted by Origin and Engineers Without Borders Australia. Engineers Without Borders Australia volunteer lead, Anna Cain, said: “It’s been inspiring to see all the positive ideas and inventions submitted, and it’s exciting to think about how these little ideas could actually come to life and make an impact in the world. Origin CEO Frank Calabria said: “Congratulations to Kirby and to everyone who submitted an idea this year. “We are proud of the role that littleBIGidea plays in encouraging and highlighting the creativity of young Australians, which is consistent with Origin’s broader commitment to supporting education.”