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Tech whiz kid nets top award for tennis project

IT was game, set and match for Alexander Amini, the winner of this year's BT Young Scientist Award. Just six months after moving to Ireland, the 15-year-old developed a computer system to help tennis players improve their game.

Last night at the RDS the pupil from Castleknock College in Dublin took home the prestigious award with his project 'Tennis Sensor Data Analysis'.

It involves sensors being attached to the body to measure the speed and orientation of a tennis shot.

Technology already exists to measure the speed of three tennis shots taken by a player, but Alexander's system can measure 13. The technology can also be used in other fields, such as improving movement after an injury.

He was presented with a cheque for €5,000 and a Waterford Crystal trophy. Alexander will also get the opportunity to represent Ireland at the 22nd European Union Young Scientist competition in Helsinki. "I am very proud and very happy. I could never have imagined this would happen. I spent about four months working on this project," he said.

"My father taught me tennis and was very into technique and this inspired me."

Alexander, his parents, twin sisters and younger brother moved to Ireland from New York in July. He started school in August and decided to enter the annual science competition. He has been playing tennis since he was five.


Last night his mother Lisa, who works in computer research, said he had worked day and night to complete the project.

"He started staying up till 1am or 2am to finish it," she said. "He had an idea and just couldn't stop himself. The more he got into it, the more excited he got and the less he slept."

He hopes to pursue a career in computer technology.

His teacher, Kieran Gallagher, said he had worked exceptionally hard.

"He said from the start he was going to win it and he succeeded," he said. "He was just fanatical about the topic."

Castleknock College principal Oliver Murphy also expressed his delight at the win -- the first for the school. "He is a fantastic student,"he said.

During the awards, a prize was also given to the best group.

This went to fourth-year students Thomas Cronin, Dylan Cross and Jeremy Barisch-Rooney from Colaiste Muire, Crosshaven, Co Cork.

They had entered a project entitled 'DIY wind power -- portable community generators for the Third World'.

The award for individual runner-up went to fifth-year student James Doyle (17), from Presentation De La Salle College, Carlow, for the project entitled 'The potential of waste materials from hedgerow cuttings as a feasible biomass fuel'.

The award for a group runner-up went to Kinsale Community School, Cork, first-year students Ciara Judge, Royanne McGregor and Sophie Healy-Thow for their project, 'A statistical analysis of public attitudes to cholesterol and its control.'

Irish Independent