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Friday 18 January 2019

'I’m in total shock' - Adam Kelly (17) crowned the BT Young Scientist winner

  • Overall winner's project focused on quantum circuits
  • Skerries student Adam Kelly will go forward to represent Ireland at the 31st EU Contest for Young Scientists this September
  • 'I'm in awful shock. What inspired me was all my teachers and the people who helped me along the way inspired me' - Adam
  • Award for Group winner went to Aoife Morris and Tianha Williams, both aged 16 and transition year students from St Aloysius College Carrigtwohill, Cork
Winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Award 2019 Adam Kelly from Skerries Community College, Co Dublin pictured with Shay Walsh, Managing Director BT Ireland and Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh Pic:Mark Condren
Winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Award 2019 Adam Kelly from Skerries Community College, Co Dublin pictured with Shay Walsh, Managing Director BT Ireland and Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh Pic:Mark Condren
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Adam Kelly was lost for words as he was announced the overall winner at the BT Young Scientist event.

The fifth year pupil from Skerries Community College won the top award at the 55th running of the competition, which continues to grow year-on-year.

Thousands of the country's brightest budding scientists held their breath before they filled the RDS with defining sounds of applause and cheers.

As the overall winner, Adam (17) will be presented with a cheque for €7,500, the BTYSTE perpetual trophy and will go forward to represent Ireland at the 31st EU Contest for Young Scientists in Bulgaria this September.

Adam Kelly from Skerries Community College, Co Dublin winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Award 2019 celebrates with his mother Carol Moroney
Pic:Mark Condren
Adam Kelly from Skerries Community College, Co Dublin winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Award 2019 celebrates with his mother Carol Moroney Pic:Mark Condren

He took home the top prize for his project entitled ‘Optimising The Simulation Of General Quantum Circuits’.

His project uses state of the art developments in the simulation of quantum circuits.

Adam Kelly from Skerries Community College, Co Dublin winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Award 2019 celebrates with his mother Carol Moroney
Pic: Mark Condren
Adam Kelly from Skerries Community College, Co Dublin winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Award 2019 celebrates with his mother Carol Moroney Pic: Mark Condren

"I’m in total shock," Adam told Independent.ie after he was announced as the overall winner.

"What inspired me was all my teachers and the people who helped me along the way inspired me.

"Of course I was hoping for the top prize, but I actually never thought I was going to win it.

"The first thing I'm going to buy with my winning money is an iPad for one of my friends that I made a bet with."

Winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Award 2019 Adam Kelly from Skerries Community College, Co Dublin pictured with Shay Walsh, Managing Director BT Ireland and Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh Pic:Mark Condren
Winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Award 2019 Adam Kelly from Skerries Community College, Co Dublin pictured with Shay Walsh, Managing Director BT Ireland and Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh Pic:Mark Condren
Some of the award winners at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2019 at the RDS. Mark Condren
Aoife McMahon (13) and Rachel Ingle (14) from Santa Sabina Dominican College, Dublin, with ‘An investigation into making food waste into bio plastic’. Photo: Damien Eagers
Alice Sexton (15) from Sacred Heart Secondary School, Cork, with her project, ‘Fear-free foraging’. Photo: Damien Eagers
Brian Donnelly (14), Ross O’Donovan (13) and Timmy O’Riordan (14), who studied the impact of parents at sports games. Photo: Frank McGrath
Madeleine Mitchell, Eoin O’Máille and Róisín McGrath with their Food for Fuels project. Photo: Frank McGrath
Discoveries: Ellie Colcannon (14), Kate Owens (13) and Aoibhe Briscoe (14) with their antibiotic resistance project. Photo: Frank McGrath
Students Byron McGuirk & Luke Kelly from Portlaoise College Laois with exhibit Does Heading the ball in football affect your memory & reaction speed during The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition at the RDS, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Stephanie French with exhibit something to chew on during The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition at the RDS, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Andrea Whyte from Athlone community college west Meath with exhibit Knock knock who is there? during The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition at the RDS, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Darren Connor, Daniel Tumilty and Luke O’Hanlon work on their Young Scientists Project entry
Ready for action: Sophie Kelly (16), Rachelle Biayi (16) and Karl Fitzpatrick (15), pupils from Pobalscoil Neasáin, Baldoyle in Dublin, at the launch of the BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibition 2019, which runs at the RDS from today until Saturday. Photo: Damien Eagers
President Michael D Higgins officially opens the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (Niall Carson/PA)

He continued; "Quantum Computing is when you’re talking about the psychics of things that are very small like electrons. My project is about mathematically modelling quantum computers in the most efficient way.

"I sacrificed a lot of time over Christmas to work on this so I’m delighted all the work paid off.

Alice Sexton (15) from Sacred Heart Secondary School, Cork, with her project, ‘Fear-free foraging’. Photo: Damien Eagers
Alice Sexton (15) from Sacred Heart Secondary School, Cork, with her project, ‘Fear-free foraging’. Photo: Damien Eagers

"I would really like to thank my teacher Ms Lynch for helping me to reach my full potential. She’s a really great motivator and someone that makes science interesting for everyone.

"Although I’ve always really liked science my favourite subject in school is maths.  I’m not too sure what I want to do after I leave school as it seems so far away, but something in science is definitely a possibility.

Brian Donnelly (14), Ross O’Donovan (13) and Timmy O’Riordan (14), who studied the impact of parents at sports games. Photo: Frank McGrath
Brian Donnelly (14), Ross O’Donovan (13) and Timmy O’Riordan (14), who studied the impact of parents at sports games. Photo: Frank McGrath

"It’s a really amazing feeling to be up here in front of hundreds of other students from around the around.

"My Mam is with me today and the rest of my family are all together watching it live from Facebook."

Madeleine Mitchell, Eoin O’Máille and Róisín McGrath with their Food for Fuels project. Photo: Frank McGrath
Madeleine Mitchell, Eoin O’Máille and Róisín McGrath with their Food for Fuels project. Photo: Frank McGrath

Proud mother Carol said described her son as "absolutely wonderful".

"I’m so proud that I’m beside myself. Adam is absolutely wonderful, he’s just incredible," she said.

"He has been doing this for a very long time. It’s his total passion and does science as a hobby - he just loves it.

Some of the award winners at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2019 at the RDS. Mark Condren
Some of the award winners at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2019 at the RDS. Mark Condren

"There’s no science background in the family at all, it just comes straight from Adam. Even his identical twin brother isn’t even into science." 

Speaking about the winning entry, BT Young Scientist Judge and Chair of the Chemical, Physical and Mathematics Category, Professor Sean Corish, said; "Quantum computing is an emerging technology which represents a potentially significant advance in computing.

"Adam developed a tool to select the optimum algorithm for the simulation of particular quantum circuits, which may inform the development of a practical quantum computer, which is still at an early stage. This has implications across many areas, including cybersecurity.

"In addition, he used Open Source code to parallelise quantum simulation on graphical processing units that is significantly quicker than other available simulators and this work has already come to the attention of key industry leaders.

"Adam’s contributions are underpinned by a fluency in what is a highly technical and complex field which hugely impressed the judges."

The award for Group winner went to Aoife Morris and Tianha Williams, both aged 16 and transition year students from St Aloysius College Carrigtwohill, Cork.

Their project was entitled 'Developing an organic solar cell coating solution to mitigate fossil fuels usage by motor vehicles'.

The students were in the Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences Category at Intermediate level.

This project develops an organic solar cell which can be used to partially power an electric car.

The students investigated and characterised different materials for use in the solar cell. Organic solar cells are thinner, more flexible and cheaper than inorganic solar cells. The use of solar cells reduces the need for fossil fuels in the automotive industry and addresses the global environment issue of pollution and climate change.

The Individual runner-up award was presented to Yasmin Ryan, aged 16, a 5th year student at St Andrew's College, Dublin for her project entitled 'Discovery of the Ideal Microenvironment for the Differentiation of hiPSCs into Islets of Langerhans'.

Yasmin was in the Biological and Ecological category at Intermediate level.

Her project focused on the generation of special cells called stem cells that can be used to generate pancreatic cells for the treatment of Type 1 Diabetes.

A new number of proteins called “growth factors” were studied using specialised databases and were identified as candidates that be utilised to allow for the production of stem cells. Her observations have profound potential implications for the long-term treatment of diabetes and cell transplantation.

Finally, the Group runners-up award was presented to Danila Fedotov and Filip Caric, aged 17 and 18, respectively, 6th year students at North Monastery Secondary School, Cork.

Their project was called 'A Wearable Device Which Assists Caretakers by Providing them with the Information on the Well-Being of Their Patients'.

The students were in the Technology category at Senior level. This project has resulted in the development of a wearable device that monitors the location and status of elderly people with a specific focus on those living with dementia.

The prototype is strapped to the upper arm and will communicate with a mobile phone app to allow caregivers to not only constantly monitor the wearers’ well-being, but also to alert in the event of a fall.

The annual extravaganza brought together some of Ireland's brightest young minds as they competed to take home the coveted title of the BT Young Scientist & Technologist(s) of the Year 2019.

The number of project entries has almost tripled from 606 in 2000 to an impressive 1,803 in 2019, with entries submitted from across the island of Ireland.

A total of 56pc of qualified entrants are female, with a significant increase of 62pc in the number of girls qualifying in the Chemical, Physical, and Mathematical Sciences category this year.

A total of 10pc of entries for the 2019 Exhibition are from DEIS schools.

Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD, said; "I am thrilled to be here at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.

"The atmosphere of excitement, creativity and fun at the RDS this week has been incredible.

"I am particularly pleased to see so many young people tackling some of the most important issues facing us, from climate change to health, to technology, ethics and societal change. The students are a credit to their families, schools and teachers and they should rightly be proud of being here. They are a huge inspiration.

"I’d like to thank everyone involved in the unique and brilliant event that the BTYSTE is; the organisers; the 81 judges; the dedicated teachers; and of course the mothers, fathers and families whose support is absolutely key to this.

"The entire competition is a credit to everyone involved, and brings to life the old adage of 'mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí'.  I hope many people will make the trip to the RDS this weekend to see the exhibition and hear from the students."

In his speech to open the ceremony, President Michael D Higgins praised the high number of projects on show that dealt with global warming, climate change and pollution.

More than 80 of the 500 looked at this issue, including the Food for Fuels: Air Pollution project by three students from Coláiste Iognáid SJ in Galway City.

President Higgins also pointed out the need for more women in science, highlighting that more girls than boys entered into the BT Young Scientist for the 12th year in succession.

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