Thursday 20 June 2019

Physics whiz Adam lands title thanks to 'science passion'

Quantum computing project wins Dublin teen spot in European final

Adam Kelly, from Skerries Community College, Co Dublin, celebrates with his mother Carol Moroney after winning the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Award 2019. Picture: Mark Condren
Adam Kelly, from Skerries Community College, Co Dublin, celebrates with his mother Carol Moroney after winning the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Award 2019. Picture: Mark Condren
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Dublin student Adam Kelly was lost for words as he was announced the overall winner at the 2019 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

The 17-year-old fifth-year pupil at 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 applause and cheers.

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

He took home the top prize for his project entitled 'Optomising The Simulation Of General Quantum Circuits'.

His project uses state-of-the-art developments in the simulation of quantum circuits to develop an approach to optimally simulate an arbitrary quantum circuit.

As photographers and members of the press flooded the stage, Adam said the announcement came as a total shock to him.

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

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

"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."

Adam said that his project focused on quantum computing, which is the physics of things that are very small, such as electrons.

"My project is about mathematically modelling quantum computers in the most efficient way," he said.

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

"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.

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

Adam's mother Carol welled up with tears as her son held up his prestigious award. Speaking to the Irish Independent, she said her son's love of science stemmed from him alone.

"There's no science background in the family at all," she said.

"It comes straight from Adam. Even his identical twin brother isn't into science.

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

"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."

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."

Education and Skills Minister Joe McHugh 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."

Meanwhile, despite it being an annual tradition, this year's winner was not invited on last night's 'Late Late Show'.

According to a source, organisers behind the award ceremony were informed that a "jam-packed" schedule had prevented Adam from being included in RTÉ's line-up.

RTÉ were contacted for a response, but did not reply at the time of going to press.

Winners: awards for pupils around the country

Runner-up individual

Yasmin Ryan, St Andrew's College, Dublin. Discovery of the Ideal Microenvironment for the Differentiation of hiPSCs into Islets of Langerhans Biological and Ecological

Best Group

Aoife Morris & Tianha Williams, St Aloysius College, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork. Developing an organic solar cell coating solution to mitigate fossil fuels usage by motor vehicles

Best School

NAPD Best School ROI: St Andrew's College Dublin

Educator Awards

Perrigo Educator of Excellence: John Sims, Mary Immaculate Secondary School, Lisdoonvarna, Clare.

BT Educator of Excellence - Social and Behavioural Sciences: James Devereux, John The Baptist Community School, Limerick.

BT Educator of Excellence - Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences: Gemma Buicke, Pobalscoil Neasain, Dublin.

Analog Educator of Excellence: Patrick O'Keeffe, Clonakilty Community College, Cork.

Social and Behavioural

Junior Individual 1st Place: Hannah Walsh, Colaiste Treasa, Cork. Diabetes: Improving understanding of Type 2 Diabetes to support prevention.

Intermediate Individual 1st place: Peter Lehane, Coláiste Muire, Crosshaven, Co Cork. Media Meddling with Memory?

Senior Individual 1st place: Róisín O'Connor, Presentation Secondary School, Tipperary. To determine if the current RSE course adequately prepares young people for changing health and social issues in Ireland.

Junior Group 1st Place: Kate Bagnall & Bobbi Beattie, The King's Hospital, Dublin. Using statistics to investigate changing use of language in Irish primary students' writing.

Intermediate Group 1st place: Darragh Boyce, Hugh Boyce & Erica Ridge, Mohill Community College, Leitrim. Decreasing childhood obesity

Senior Group 1st place: Michael Carroll, Michael Kirby & Padraig Crean. CBS Kerry. A study into teaching farm safety skills to young children by a children's storybook.

The full list of this year's winning entrants can be seen by visiting

Irish Independent

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