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A cellphone detector developed by a team of six New Zealand schoolboys has been a runaway success with their first production run already sold out.

The boys, students at St Thomas of Canterbury College in Christchurch, New Zealand developed the cellphone detector business as part of a competition for school students. For their efforts, they have so far been deemed the best product in the Canterbury section of the Young Enterprise Scheme and have sold all 20 of the first models of the detector that they are building.

The boys got the idea for the cellphone detector when they were deciding what product they would make and market for the Young Enterprise competition. The previous year, Adam Manley and his fellow managing director James Cole had produced a biscotti; this year they wanted to solve a social problem.

They decided on cellphones and being able to detect them when they were unethically in use. With the support of their the mentoring company, Tait Electronics, set about developing a detector.

The CellTrac-r detector works, the company website explains because it can pick up the bursts of radiofrequency activity that occurs each time a cellphone sends or receives a call or a text message.

The first version of the detector can detect these transient electromagnetic energy signals up to a radius of 30 meters. The detector can also measure the amplitude of the energy to determine the distance of the cellphone.

The detector then lights up its four light-emitting diodes and when all four LEDs are lit, shows a cellphone is in use at a very close distance to the CellTrac-r; just one LED lit up means that the cellphone is being used at a distance of 25 to 30 meters.

The boys decided their target market would be educational institutions, the aviation industry, and correctional facilities. So far, they have had an interest — and orders — from schools, education institutions, and the Corrections Department for the CellTrac-r. And they’ve also had people emailing them from as far afield as Australia and America, asking about the cellphone detector.

“It’s expanded outside the Youthful Venture point,” says Adam Manley, one of the 17-year-old handling directors of StopCom, the name the trainees have provided to their ‘company’.

The first version of the product has actually sold for just NZ$ 39.95, however if the young boys create an upgraded variation (maybe including a buzzer, as well as boosting the discovery variety), it would certainly sell for about $100.00. That low price is probably part of the lure for would-be international buyers; cellphone detectors overseas can sell for as much as $1000.

This year, the would-be entrepreneurs won’t be reaping any riches — a portion of any profits from the boys’ efforts will go to the charity work in Tanzania, the charity that the boys’ school supports.

But they hope that their work will be good enough for them to win the Young Enterprise competition in Canterbury. “Saying we won the best product is not saying we won the whole thing. The other schools all have a good chance of winning,” says Adam.

And the boys may set up a private company once the school year and the competition ends. “It is something we have thought about but we are not finalizing it all yet,” says Adam.

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