Timothy jetting off for Uganda

The 2018 Science for Development Award presented by Minister Helen McEntee TD to Timothy McGrath, Killorglin Community College for his project, ‘An Investigation into using CRISPR-Cas9 to genomically edit Paramecium Caudatum to purify Vibrio Cholera infected water in third-world countries’. Photo by Chris Bellew
The 2018 Science for Development Award presented by Minister Helen McEntee TD to Timothy McGrath, Killorglin Community College for his project, ‘An Investigation into using CRISPR-Cas9 to genomically edit Paramecium Caudatum to purify Vibrio Cholera infected water in third-world countries’. Photo by Chris Bellew

Tadhg Evans

Fifth-year Killorglin Community College student Timothy McGrath will this month jet off to Uganda with genuine hope of helping the African nation - and Principal Donal O'Reilly, who will travel with him from February 16, was full of praise for Timothy this week as well as the school's tradition when it comes to innovation and invention.

Timothy was a winner in the Irish Aid-sponsored 'Science for Development Award' category at the 2018 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition for a project that purified water.

He sought to develop a micro-organism that feeds on Cholera, and he built home-made microbiology and centrifuge machines to multiply DNA for the project.

The award is organised annually by Self Help Africa, and for his efforts, Timothy will now fly to the Ugandan capital, Kampala, and visit farming communities in rural parts of the country.

Mr O'Reilly explained to The Kerryman that Timothy’s dad will also travel over, and some similarly impressive students from around Ireland will also join Timothy.

"I am excited to live a new experience and to be in a new environment," Timothy said.

"I think there will be a lot to take in. "I'm hoping to bring one of the actual machines that I've developed with me and see if the people I meet in Uganda think it can be applied there."

Mr O'Reilly explained that Timothy developed the normally expensive technology for a mere €120, and it is hoped that Timothy can instruct the people of Uganda on how to develop this technology - perhaps for as little as €20 to €30.

"It's amazing to see a young man like Timothy in the current climate with such a focus on looking after our planet," Donal said. 

"I suppose we were the generation that nearly destroyed the earth, and now you see people like Timothy coming along and being more aware of the world around us and looking as well to help those who are less well off. "I hadn't been expecting to be going over as well myself initially but, luckily for me, it falls during mid-term - so it works out quite well!"

Timothy's achievement follows a long line of similarly impressive efforts by the school in recent years.

Aside from the 2018 win that led to Timothy securing a spot on the upcoming trip to Uganda, he was again amongst the prize-winners in the 2019 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS in Dublin, finishing third in his category for creating a biofilter system using halophyte plants to combat oceanic dead zones. It was one of two awards for the school at this year's exhibition, to which Killorglin Community College sent four participants.

 In late 2016, students Jack Nagle and Eoghan McKenna were among 600 finalists at Maker Faire Rome exhibition, the largest showcase of inventions and innovation in Europe. 

The duo were the only Irish secondary school students at that year's event having developed a cot that allows parents to easily elevate a baby to the medically recommended 30-degree angle. 

Jack Nagle has also won awards and plaudits aplenty for developing the 'Tractor Safe Lock', which automatically engages a tractor's handbrake when the driver leaves his or her seat.

These examples only scratch the surface of Timothy, Jack and the school's achievements, and Mr O'Reilly said there's definitely something about the school and the Killorglin community that helps foster innovation - innovation that has seen the school performing at the highest level in events such as the Young Scientist Exhibition and the Kerry Student Enterprise Awards.

"There's definitely something in the water here," Mr O'Reilly joked.

"The school places a focus on science, technology and problem-solving, and the students are always encouraged to think for themselves rather than just being spoon-fed everything.

"I think you'd also have to look at Killorglin itself and its reputation  as an entrepreneurial town, home to the likes of FEXCO and a number of other big businesses.

"I think those things have combined to contribute to the success we've had here at the Community College over the last number of years."

Kerryman

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