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Young Scientist award for pals whose work reached for the stars

TWO best friends scooped the prestigious BT Young Scientist of the Year award last night for their project to improve the accuracy of satellite movements.

Maths whiz kids Eric Doyle and Mark Kelly beat off hundreds of other talented competitors to take the accolade with their project -- 'Simulation accuracy in the gravitational many-body problem'.

The basic idea surrounding the sophisticated project is to ensure that satellites can be sent into space with a greater degree of accuracy as to their movements.

The two 17-year-olds from Crumlin took the attention in their stride as they were welcomed on stage at the RDS with bellowing music.

And they displayed an air of confidence that suggested they knew they were in the running for the top prize.

"We knew we had the capability," said Mark, when asked if he thought they could go all the way.

"We've been working on it through the whole summer and then every Saturday we've been meeting up since and keeping hands on the project."

The pair were also presented with a cheque for €5,000, tickets to the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic games and the opportunity to represent Ireland at the 24th European Union Young Scientist competition taking place in Bratislava in September, along with a Waterford Crystal trophy.

But the pair, from Synge Street CBS, were keeping quiet on how they were going to spend the money.

Almost 1,200 students from 30 countries covering 550 projects from 221 schools nationwide competed for the coveted title.

Eric said he was honoured to have being chosen, and said he hoped NASA might be interested in the idea.

"To send a probe out to space, you need an algorithm (a specific set of instructions for carrying out a procedure or solving a problem) and you need to carry a lot of fuel to correct the course because an algorithm isn't perfect.

"We'll be able to see which algorithms are the best algorithms, so in total you'll be saving a lot of money on fuel."

Mark said he wants to study Theoretical Physics in either Trinity or UCD next year.

Teacher Kate Walsh said she was thrilled for the two boys.

"The amount of work they put in from the summer months all the way through to now is colossal so they deserve every bit of it," she said.

"I always knew the boys had high hopes and high aspirations for the project."

Professor Pat Guiry, head judge in the chemical, physical and mathematical category, said the pair showed an exceptional level of mathematical proficiency. "The project develops a novel mathematical approach which has a diverse range of applications from satellite placement to predicting network congestion in telecommunications," he said.

Other awards presented last night included the Best Individual, which went to Eoin Farrell from St Eunan's College in Donegal for his project Paediatric resuscitation: How reliable are existing weight estimation methods in Ireland?

The award for individual runner up went to Aoife Gregg from Loreto College, St Stephen's Green, Dublin, for her project, 'Cryptography: A study of the Irish language'.

The accolade for group runner-up was presented to Deirdre Harford and Colleen Kelly from Loreto Secondary School in Balbriggan for their work, 'A search for genes associated with drought resistance in potatoes'.

A mistake was made in the announcement of the awards. However, the competitor incorrectly named as winning an award has been given tickets to the London Olympics as a consolation prize.

Irish Independent