A teenager who found a way of stopping his earphones from falling to the ground, and tripping him up, has won the top Student Enterprise Award.

Luke Byrne, 16, a fourth-year student at Coláiste Craobh Abhann, Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, developed a simple silicone band called Headphone Helpers.

His mini-company is already making money. Since December he has sold 770 Headphone Helpers at €7 each netting a tidy profit of almost €2,000.

Luke developed the product because he wanted a solution to a personal problem.

“I run myself, and the one thing that annoyed me was that my earphones kept falling to the ground and tripping me up,” he said.

Luke also realised there was a huge potential market for the unique patent-pending product.

“Headphone Helpers are really for anybody who is active and doesn’t want the bother of them falling out and getting tangled.”

His product, suitable for all earphone makes, is simply a silicone band that is placed around the neck of the user.

The earphones are then slipped up through the loops and inserted into the users’ ears.

He started working on developing the project last October and, two months later, began selling the product on the internet.

The teenager was delighted to have won the top prize. He had always believed his product would come out tops.

Luke was among 201 enterprising students who showcased their inventions and businesses at the national final of 14th Annual Student Enterprise Awards in Croke Park, Dublin, yesterday.

A record 22,000 students from 620 schools took part in the programme this year, with 76 student business making it through to the final, which is co-ordinated by the Local Enterprise Offices.

Chair of the enterprise education committee with the Local Enterprise Offices, Sean O’Sullivan, said the awards gave young teenagers an opportunity to experience what it was like to run a business.

“Learning the fundamentals of running a business now will help them throughout their studies and career,” he said.

He said an additional 5,000 students and 200 schools took part in the programme that started last September.

“What is striking is the quality of the projects: students are coming up with extremely good business ideas. They really want to go out and make money and find ways of making their product even better.”

The intermediate category that was open to second and third-year students was won by two 14-year-old second year students, Sean Óg Harrington and Oisin McLaughlin from Scoil Mhuire in Buncrana, Co Donegal. Their company, Irish Wood Working, produces a wide range of handcrafted giftware.

Sean Óg comes from a family of skilled craftsmen and from a very young age had a great interest in anything made from wood. He started helping his grandfather in his workshop before he even started school.

One of his chores at home was to clean up the cutoffs from the timber that was used for the fire. He decided that it was a waste to throw out such good wood so a business idea was born. Oisin oversees marketing and finance.

Irish Woodworking — which produces bowls, candlesticks, wine racks, honey dippers, and place mats — already has a successful export business, with customers in England and Canada.

The top prize in the junior category for first year students went to Amor from St Oliver Post Primary School in Oldcastle, Co Meath, for their modified stirrup tread for horse- riding.

Four 13-year-old students, Emily Finnegan, Kate O’Reilly, Ava Cadden and Mary Freeman solved the problem of foot positioning when riding.

“Our product is a steel- metal frame attached onto an angled rubber band. The metal frame cradles the foot into the correct position. We also have a rubber surrounding the heel of the metal frame so as not to injure the horse in any way,” said Mary.

“They will take the stress off the riding instructor because they won’t have to keep reminding riders to keep their heels down so the lesson will be more enjoyable,” she said.

Mary said the patent-pending product costs €30 and they had already sold 130 pairs to riding schools across the country.


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