BT Young Scientist winners fly the flag for Ireland at European competition

17 Sep 2021

BT Young Scientist 2020 winners Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan, with BT Young Scientist 2021 winner Greg Tarr. Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

Greg Tarr, Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan will compete against more than 150 young scientists from 39 countries.

The winners of the 2020 and 2021 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) will represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists this weekend.

They will compete against more than 150 participants from 39 countries around Europe and further afield at a virtual event hosted from Salamanca in Spain.

Each year, the winners of the BTYSTE go on to represent Ireland in this European competition. Due to a pandemic-related postponement last year, the contest this weekend will combine the 2020 event and the 2021 event.

Greg Tarr was this winner of this year’s BTYSTE in January. The former Bandon Grammar School student set out to put powerful computing power to work detecting deepfakes.

The 18-year-old has since gone on to found Inferex, a start-up looking to commercialise the deepfake detection model he developed for the student competition, and has raised more than $1m.

Tarr will be joined at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists by BTYSTE 2020 winners Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan.

The students, who are now in their final year at Coláiste Choilm in Co Cork, took home the top prize for their research on gender stereotyping in young children. They spoke at Silicon Republic’s Future Human event last year about how they designed the project and developed an initiative to combat gender bias.

Irish students go international

Ireland has a strong track record at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, having won first place 15 times in the contest’s 31-year history. Previous winners include young quantum pioneer Adam Kelly.

BT Ireland managing director Shay Walsh said that many BTYSTE winners go on to “great success internationally”.

“I have no doubt that Greg’s project on identifying deepfake images, and Cormac and Alan’s project on gender bias among five- to seven-year-olds and how to combat it, will impress the European judges this weekend. We’ll be watching the contest with great enthusiasm and we offer our very best wishes to all three students, their schools and their community.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD, added that it is “great to see our talented young students go on to present their projects on this international stage”.

Applications are now open for the 2022 BTYSTE, but the deadline for entries is 27 September. For the second year in a row, the event will take place virtually.

Students chosen to present their science and tech projects in the virtual exhibition hall will be competing for a €7,500 prize and the chance to represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in 2022.

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic