First Microsoft award for Irish student

30 Aug 2005

The first Microsoft Award for Student Excellence to be won by an Irish student went to Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) computer science graduate Ióseph Ó Loingsigh (pictured) for developing an innovative internet phone service for partially sighted people.

Developed in partnership with local IT company Kainos Software, the technology is also aimed at people who are constantly on the move. The project enables people to keep up to date with the latest information by using any telephone to access and retrieve information from the internet by talking and listening, rather than by text or visual images.

The project has two main elements. The first implements an information-reading service that can be accessed by a caller dialling a number and making a verbal request for information. The second part, which comprises a comprehensive web-based reporting system, was developed to judge the viability and success of the overall system.

The project was developed in ASP.Net using the visual studio development environment and provides a VoiceXML-based speech application and a web-based administration and reporting tool.

The project also won Ó Loingsigh the Microsoft Technology Prize for the best project developed on Microsoft Technology during 2004/05 as part of the Software Engineering Project Module taken by computer science students in their final year. The prize consists of a medal and a cheque for €500.

It was revealed in the same week as winning the award, Ó Loingsigh took up a post as software engineer with Kainos as part of the company’s £3.3m sterling expansion plans.

Yesterday Ó Loingsigh was presented with the award and an Hewlett-Packard TC1100 tablet PC during a ceremony at the QUB, at which the university also received a £1,000 sterling donation to support teaching and a plaque for display in the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Congratulating Ó Loingsigh, Microsoft academic group manager, Microsoft UK, Kevin McDaniel, said: “It was an excellent piece of work and had a number of interesting applications for disabled users. His work with Kainos on the project exhibited a high degree of professionalism and technical knowledge.

“Microsoft is very encouraged by the relationship O’Loinsigh forged with Kainos and looks forward to seeing more innovative projects developed using Microsoft technology in the near future,” McDaniel said.

A shocked and delighted Ó Loingsigh commented: “I was interested in doing an industrial project as part of my studies and my supervisor, Dr Peter Kilpatrick, drew my attention to this one. When it was completed and I had written it up for my dissertation, he suggested I enter it for this competition and I’m very glad that he did.”

QUB’s pro-vice-chancellor for students and learning, Professor Ken Bell, said the success of the project underlines the benefits to be gained from strong university-industry links, as exemplified by QUB’s ongoing collaboration with Kainos. “Ó Loingsigh combination of academic excellence, innovation and initiative make him an excellent role model for our students. We are grateful to Microsoft for sponsoring these awards and for their continuing support for computer science teaching at the university.”

By John Kennedy