Irish students are winners at European young scientist contest

20 Sep 2021

From left: Greg Tarr, Mari Cahalane, Alan O’Sullivan and Cormac Harris. Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

Three young Irish students have taken home top prizes from the European Union Contest for Young Scientists.

Ireland’s recent BT Young Scientist winners competed against more than 150 young scientists and came out on top.

EUCYS, the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, was hosted last weekend as a virtual event from Salamanca in Spain. Due to a pandemic-related postponement of the 2020 event, both the 2020 and 2021 winners of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) represented Ireland at the event.

Greg Tarr, Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan went up against young scientist projects from 39 countries. And it was the social sciences project from duo Harris and O’Sullivan that became Ireland’s latest success in the European competition.

Their project entitled ‘A statistical investigation into the prevalence of gender stereotyping in five to seven-year-olds and the development of an initiative to combat gender bias’ also won first place at BTYSTE in 2020.

Now in their final year at Coláiste Choilm in Co Cork, Harris and O’Sullivan spoke at Silicon Republic’s Future Human event last year about how they designed their project and developed an initiative to combat gender bias.

The findings of their project identified the need to focus on all children, boys and girls, from a young age, in order to combat the development of gender stereotyping.

Greg Tarr, winner of this year’s BTYSTE held virtually in January, took third place at EUCYS for his project: ‘Towards detecting state-of-the-art deepfakes’.

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.

The top prize at EUCYS is €7,000 with third place securing €3,500.

Mari Cahalane, head of the BTYSTE, said she was “incredibly proud” of the Irish competition’s alumni.

“It is Ireland’s second consecutive first prize win – a fantastic achievement and a credit to level of innovative and STEM talent that the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition showcases each year,” she said, referencing the 2019 success of young quantum pioneer Adam Kelly.

In fact, Ireland has a strong track record at EUCYS, having now won first place 16 times in the contest’s 32-year history.

The winner of BTYSTE 2022 will go on to represent Ireland at next year’s EUCYS. Taking place from 12 to 14 January 2022, the next BTYSTE will be the second time the event will take place virtually. The deadline for entries is 27 September.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.