Leaving Cert student builds his own CAO Points Checker

14 Aug 2013

Image via Conor Burke

One student receiving his Leaving Cert results today was looking for a convenient way to compare the CAO points required for courses across the country. Finding nothing suitable, he built a web app to do the job himself.

CAO Points Checker is a handy tool for Leaving Cert students today discovering how many points they have earned and wondering whether it will be enough for their chosen CAO courses. It was developed by 19-year-old Conor Burke, who also received his results today.

“I picked up my results this morning and I am delighted with them,” he told me. “I got over 550 points which should be more than enough to get me into UCD (University College Dublin) engineering next year, which is my first choice.”

A summer project

Burke attended Ardscoil Rís, Limerick, and when his exams were behind him he started learning Ruby on Rails, a popular programming language for novice coders.

“My objective for the summer was to learn to code and develop an application,” he says. “The CAO Points Checker seemed like a useful app which my peers and thousands of other students would benefit from. To build the app I used what I had learned from online tutorials and reached out to experienced developers if I came across any problems.”

Burke’s app collates the CAO points requirements of 1,325 courses offered in Ireland over the past eight years. These requirements are then graphed so aspiring college students can see how they may have changed over time and also easily compare the points for two different courses at once.

The data comes from the CAO archives, which can be accessed online. Working with his brother Ronan (another Leaving Cert student who is celebrating similarly high points today), Burke created a database housing this information and built the web app to easily sort through it.

Watch this space

The simple app does what it does well, but Burke is not stopping at that. He and his brother are now working on a prediction algorithm that they hope will be able to forecast the points required for the current year and plans to have this operational in time for the 2014 CAO application process.

This isn’t the Burke boys’ first tech venture, either. The two also established AirNFC, an online provider of NFC contact solutions. “We are the first in Ireland to provide this technology and have been supplying products worldwide for the past year,” says Burke.

“We also designed and developed this site ourselves. It was this project which motivated me to start learning more about computer programming,” he adds.

CAO offers will start making the rounds on Monday, 19 August, and, as he will likely go on to study engineering in UCD, Burke intends to focus on electronic and computer engineering. Clearly, he is more than capable of doing so. Watch this space – we could be looking at the next Collison brothers!

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic