Cooking up a storm . . . tin can stove scoops top science prize
A SCOUT who developed a smoke-reducing stove made from tin cans was named the BT Young Scientist of the Year at a glittering awards ceremony in Dublin last night.
Richard O'Shea (18), from Blarney, Co Cork, won the prestigious prize for his innovative cooking stove that he hopes will be used in developing countries to reduce smoke and carbon emissions.
The 6th-year student from Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal said he was inspired to create his "biomass-fired cooking stove for developing countries" through his own experience as a scouting enthusiast. He has spent the last year and a half perfecting his design.
"I'm in the scouts and I'm the guy who lights the fire constantly and I was kind of sick of getting smoke in my face," he told the Irish Independent last night.
"So I started building different types of stoves to see could I eliminate the smoke produced," he said.
He described his winning design as "a load of tin cans with holes in them".
"The stove produces very little emissions, which means that the health effects caused by cooking with bio-mass indoors is greatly reduced," he said of traditional material such as wood and cow dung, used as fuel in developing countries.
"I didn't think I'd get this far, ever," he said, adding that he literally put blood, sweat and tears into the project.
"I've had cuts, scrapes, I stabbed myself in the leg with a knife at one stage," he said.
But his efforts paid off when his name was announced as the overall winner of the 46th annual science and technology competition by award hostess and former Rose of Tralee Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain and RTE's 'The Cafe' presenter Aidan Power at the glitzy awards ceremony at the RDS.
Along with the top prizes, more than 100 awards were given out to fellow competitors.
Some of the prize-winning projects included a study of the physics of a 'musical saw', a re-chargeable lawnmower, the threat posed by exotic pets and how the tempo of music affects the speed at which people drive.
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Conor Lenihan, who presented Richard with a perpetual trophy of Waterford Crystal and a cheque for €5,000, said aspiring young scientists such as Richard represented Ireland's future as a world leader in technology and innovation.
Chief judge, technology, Leonard Hobbs said Richard's design had huge potential "to become a commercial success", noting that over two billion people in the developing world use wood-burning stoves indoors.
Richard, meanwhile, said he planned to donate a substantial portion of his winnings to charities, including Irish Aid and Self-Help Africa.
"I didn't enter the competition to make money, I entered it to help people," he said, adding that he now wants to train people in developing countries in how to build the stoves from materials they have at hand such as clay and tin cans.
The young man, who has already won four previous awards at the ceremony, hopes to go on to study energy engineering at University College Cork or another area dealing with renewable energy.
Richard will represent Ireland at the 22nd EU Contest for Young Scientists taking place in Lisbon, Portugal, in September.
Other winners included Paul McKeever and Bryan Murphy from the Abbey Christian Brothers school in Co Down for their project called 'Specs Detector'.
They received a cheque for €2,400 and a trophy for their project as well as being named the winner of the inaugural Northern Ireland award.
The winners of the group runner-up category were Leona Chow and Mollieanne Gallagher from Alexandra Collge, Co, Dublin, for their in-vitro study of the impact of alcohol and caffeine on the breakdown of protein by stomach enzymes.