A system designed by North East students that could help save lives in house fires has attracted national interest after winning a major award.

Students from Emmanuel College, in Gateshead, received the IBM Smarter Planet prize and £600 in the National Science and Engineering competition finals held at the Big Bang fair in London.

Their Safe House System shuts off the gas and electricity supply to a house when smoke reaches its sensors.

Officials from London Fire Service took time to speak to the students, and the Institute of Civil Engineers has expressed interest in working with them to develop the invention further.

Kyle Fryer, 15, from Heworth, said: “We are planning to spend some of our prize money on patenting the design, and we’re looking for a sponsor who might help us fund further development.”

James Jones, 14, from Lemington, admitted modestly that the design was his idea but added: “It’s been a team effort. Everyone pitched in with their ideas to get to the final design.”

The boys were supported by fellow team members Brogan Pigott, 14, of Wrekenton, and Emiline Scott, 14, from Low Fell. All the students are studying GCSE technology.

The project was part of their electronics topic and they qualified for the national finals at a regional heat held at Newcastle University last summer.

Head of electronics at Emmanuel College David Hagon said: “This team was also highly commended in the junior Engineering and Technology category in London, which is the third team an Emmanuel team has been recognised at this level.”

Technology teacher Louise Glover added: “The students’ Safe House System has real potential to be developed and put into operation in homes across the country. The students have worked really hard to perfect it and it’s fantastic that it is attracting genuine interest nationally.”