Teen’s tennis project nets top prize

A TEENAGER who developed software that tracks the movement of a tennis player has won the top prize in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Dublin student Alexander Amini, originally from New York and whose American parents moved to Ireland six months ago, becomes the Young Scientist of 2011, taking home a trophy and a cheque for €5,000.

Alexander, 15, a fourth year student at Castleknock College, accepted his award last night in the RDS in Dublin from Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, Mary Coughlan. He also gets the opportunity to represent Ireland at the 22nd European Union Young Scientist competition taking place in Helsinki, Finland, in September.

There was a 35% surge in entries in the technology category this year, with students such as Alexander increasingly deploying technology to invent practical solutions to improve every situations and issues.

Alexander used sensors produced by Dublin City University to develop software that can detect differences in 13 tennis shots. Up to now, there was only software to distinguish between three stroke types.

A keen tennis player, Alexander was delighted that he won the top prize, having spent the last four months developing the software. He also pointed out that it would also be used to develop rehabilitation techniques for stroke or accident victims.

“My family are very proud of me. They know how much I have been working on this project,” he said last night.

The best group project went to fourth year students Thomas Cronin, Dylan Cross and Jeremy Barisch-Rooney from Coláiste Mhuire, Crosshaven, Co Cork. They used part of a bicycle to develop cheap portable community generators for the Third World.

The award for individual runner-up went to 17-year-old James Doyle, a fifth year student at Presentation de la Salle College, Carlow for his project on using hedgerow cuttings as a feasible biomass fuel.

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

Kinsale Community School has already produced two top award winners, including Ciara’s sister Aisling, who took the title in 2006 for developing a food spoilage indicator and John D O’Callaghan and Liam McCarthy who became the Young Scientists of 2009 for finding a simple way of detecting mastitis in cattle using a washing up bottle to test their milk.

Almost 40,000 people are expected to pass through the doors of the RDS during the week for the exhibition that continues today

Results of the competition will be available from today at www.btyoungscientist.com.

How exhibition has grown over 47 years

IT IS 47 years since the competition began, making it one of the longest standing exhibitions of its kind in the world.

There were 1,735 projects and 346 schools entered this year.

A total of 520 projects were accepted to take part this year in the finals, making it the largest exhibition ever, with 207 schools and 1,138 students taking part.

The top three counties for projects outside Dublin are Cork, Donegal and Kildare.

Just over three-quarters were group projects, while the remainder were from individuals.

The youngest ever winner was a 13-year-old girl from Tralee, Co Kerry — Emer Jones who took the top prize in January 2008.

The first ever Young Scientist Exhibition was held in the Mansion House in Dublin in 1965 — 230 students participated and 5,000 people attended.

Since 1965, when it was founded by Fr Tom Burke and Dr Tony Scott, it is estimated that over three-quarters-of-a-million people have visited the exhibition. Dr Scott remains a judge today.

This year it took 20 tonnes of aluminium, 6,000 square meters of carpet, 12 40 foot trucks full of equipment, thousands of light bulbs and 135 men and women to prepare the main hall and stands for the projects to be displayed at the RDS.

To date, Irish students have taken the top honours 12 times at the European Union Science Contest and the most recent winners John D O’Callaghan and Liam McCarthy from Kinsale Community School, Cork, took first prize at the 21st EU Contest in Paris in September 2009.

Irish young scientists are among the youngest entrants and have scooped over 20 top awards to date in the Science and Engineering Fair in the US.

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