THE first winner of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition has told how it gave him "enormous self-confidence".
The competition will crown its 50th winner on Friday and John Monahan said it will open many doors for the budding scientist.
The Kildare native had his own laboratory at his family's farm growing up and spent his summer holidays completing his project entry to the contest.
He told the Irish Independent of his excitement to see such growing interest in science and technology in Ireland.
"Being a scientist is like being an artist or musician, to some extent you're born with it and that was definitely the case with me; but participating in this event definitely gave me enormous self-confidence," Mr Monahan said.
A record number of entries will be on show when the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition celebrates its 50th anniversary tomorrow.
Around of 2,000 applications were received for the 2014 competition, with the top 550 projects going on display at the RDS until Saturday.
Up to 45,000 people are expected to spill through the doors and with a momentous birthday to toast, several of the past winners will be in attendance.
The numbers of project entries have quadrupled in the last 14 years and Colm O'Neill, chief executive of BT Ireland, puts it down to continued effort across the board to see the event endure and succeed.
"People have really started to look at science and technology as a future and we're seeing the benefit of that now," said Mr O'Neill
"We do a lot in this country and this exhibition is a prime example; a great opportunity to build on what we do already and improve on it."
There have been several additions to the exhibition programme this year.
A digital archive offering a historical look at the exhibition has been created, while live shows including World of Robots; The Science Museum 'SuperCool' Show; 3D Theatre -- 50 years of space exploration; and TITAN the Robot will also entertain attendees.
"Chris is a rock star and I think people like him really do inspire people to do things differently," Mr O'Neill said.
Each exhibit is assessed three times by the judging panel, made up of 82 individuals including past winner Peter Taylor, brother of Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor.
It opens to the public tomorrow. Tickets are available on the door at €12 for adults and €6 for students/concessions.