Irish teen wins top EU science prize

A COUPLE of new tennis rackets is as extravagant as Ireland’s latest EU Young Scientist winner Alexander Amini will get with the €7,000 prize he scooped in Finland.

The 16-year-old computing ace landed one of three top accolades in the competition for his project, which could be in use within years by top sports coaches and medical experts around the globe.

He has advanced his sensor-based computer software significantly since being named BT Young Scientist in Dublin last January and impressed the judges in Helsinki this week to overcome competition from 130 contestants representing 37 countries.

“I can’t believe it really, this has been a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to represent Ireland and to find out I won, it came as a completed surprise,” he said. “I’ll probably put the money in a savings account, although I might buy a couple of tennis rackets all right.”

The level-headed New Yorker has been a student at Castleknock College since last year, when his mum Lisa’s job with IBM brought the family to Dublin.

The idea for the project evolved from his love of tennis and computers.

The wireless motion sensor is strapped to a tennis player’s wrist, allowing far more detailed analysis of strokes than existing programs. It means players or their coaches can see what is wrong with their slice shots or figure out how to improve the spin on their backhands.

“I’ve had approaches from a number of companies in countries like Spain, France and Italy and it’s not just tennis, people involved in hockey, baseball and softball are also interested. The medical sector is also interested, it could be used for rehabilitation, helping people who have had accidents or strokes.”

While he is preparing for next summer’s Leaving Certificate, he is also has entrance tests for some US colleges in mind.

He is constantly working on developing his project and possible commercial applications for the future.

“This has been great fun and I really would encourage anybody thinking about putting in a project for the BT Young Scientist to go ahead and get them in,” said Alexander.

His science teacher Kieran Gallagher and principal Oliver Murphy made it to see him collect the prize and are looking forward to celebrating when they return.

“We’re absolutely thrilled for him, he’s a fantastic guy and he’s worked so hard at this, said Mr Murphy.

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