Kerry student’s AI weather-prediction model wins at global science fair

24 May 2021

Conor Casey. Image: SciFest

SciFest 2020 runner-up Conor Casey has won second place at Regeneron ISEF for his weather-prediction model.

A secondary-school student from Kenmare in Co Kerry has placed second in the Earth and Environmental Sciences category at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

Conor Casey represented his school, Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine, at the virtual competition, which usually takes place in the US. He won a prize of $2,000.

Having won the runner-up award at the national final of Irish science programme SciFest last year, Casey secured a place among the 1,800 student participants from 64 countries at the international fair.

His project was called Using AI to Improve Weather Prediction. This saw Casey develop an AI model that can produce weather forecasts with similar levels of accuracy to those currently used. As well as being more efficient, the model would make generating forecasts less expensive by reducing the amount of resources needed.

Commenting on his participation in ISEF, Casey said the experience was “absolutely amazing”.

“It was great that the competition got to go ahead virtually. It gave me the opportunity to interact with people from around the world who have done some incredible work across a huge variety of areas,” he said.

“I really enjoyed presenting my project and hearing from world-famous scientists who have really encouraged me to develop my love of STEM. I am immensely grateful to everyone at SciFest for this opportunity, as well as all my family and my teacher, Ms Abbott, without whom none of this would have been possible.”

Casey also participated last year in Dogpatch Labs’ Patch summer accelerator for teenage sci-tech entrepreneurs.

Sheila Porter, SciFest founder and CEO, described Casey as a “great example of the high calibre” of SciFest entries. “His project demonstrates that great science is really about curiosity, exploration and having an inquisitive spirit.

“For Conor to represent Ireland at ISEF and to win in his category over other students from all over the world is an impressive achievement not only for him, his teacher and school but for Ireland too, and it shows that there is a very high standard of science being taught in Irish schools. It is important that we nourish this talent and further encourage the take-up of STEM subjects in school.”

Other SciFest finalists who took part in Regeneron ISEF were Dara Newsome, Conor Bradshaw and David Hughes from Mercy Secondary School Mounthawk in Tralee, and Caoimhín O’Leary from Ardscoil na Mara in Tramore. Eoghan Farren from Letterkenny’s Coláiste Ailigh took part in the Broadcom MASTERS International, which is an ISEF companion programme.

This year’s SciFest is funded by Intel, Boston Scientific, Accenture, Fenergo and Grifols. The national final will take place on 19 November, and the programme is free to enter for second-level students across the island of Ireland. Learn more about taking part here.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021