Braille and graphite inspired the winners at BTYSTE Business Bootcamp

6 Mar 2020

Individual winner Ben Loughnane. Image: BT

A team of five students received an award for their reusable braille translator, while individual winner Ben Loughnane took home a prize for his project involving graphite.

On Thursday (5 March), the winners of the 11th annual BT Young Scientist Business Bootcamp were announced at NovaUCD.

A team of five students from Dublin, Westmeath, Sligo and Kildare was awarded Best Group for a project entitled ‘The Reusable Braille Translator’, while Ben Loughnane from Kinsale Community School in Co Cork was announced as the individual winner.

The bootcamp was established in 2010 by BT and is delivered in partnership with UCD Research and Innovation to give young students the commercialisation skills that are needed to develop their BT Young Scientist and Technology project ideas.

The winners

The team behind the reusable braille translator was Alison Egan from Castleknock Community College in Dublin, Cian Flaherty from Coláiste Mhuire Mullingar in Westmeath, Maura Madden from Ursuline College in Sligo, Rhys Mordaunt from the Institute of Education in Dublin, and Ruairi Mullally from Patrician Secondary School in Newbridge.

A group of teenagers holding glass trophies in front of their bodies. There are three boys and two girls.

The winning group. Image: BT

Together, the five students developed a reusable device that aims to enhance the experience of reading and browsing the internet for people with visual impairments, by converting text into braille form.

Meanwhile, Loughnane, the individual winner of the competition, created a project entitled ‘Electric Paint – how much graphite is needed to heat your home?’

During the four-day bootcamp, the 29 participants received mentorship, advice and guidance from some of the individuals who have found success after participating in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition over the years.

Speakers at the event included Shane Curran, who now runs Evervault; Kate and Annie Madden from FenuHealth; Jack O’Connor, who is now a UN Youth Ambassador; and Danny Hobbs, who founded

Deepening entrepreneurial thinking

Shay Walsh, managing director of BT Ireland said: “Massive congratulations to all the students who took part in the BT Young Scientist Business Bootcamp this year and specifically Alison, Cian, Maura, Rhys, Ruari and Ben on their winning projects.

“The BT Young Scientist Business Bootcamp has been an integral part of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition programme for 11 years, and in that time, I am proud to say that many of our alumni have gone on to huge success in business.

“What is even more significant is that some of these successful entrepreneurs returned this week to share their experiences with our new bootcamp graduates, to offer guidance on how to take an idea and transform it into a business proposition.”

Prof Orla Feely, vice-president for research, innovation and impact at UCD, said: “The aim of the four-day Business Bootcamp is to help the students to deepen their entrepreneurial thinking and also their understanding of the key steps required to translate innovative STEM ideas and projects into sustainable and scalable businesses.

“I would like to congratulate the overall winners, and all the students who participated on the 2020 programme, and I hope to see their projects transformed into businesses in the very near future.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic