Irish young scientists win big at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

18 May 2015

Christopher Carragher, Shauna Murphy, Caoimhe Cronin and Anna McEvoy at Intel ISEF 2015

Irish students competing at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair last week picked up a total of five awards — two special awards and three category awards.

More than 7m students across the world participated in feeder fairs for Intel ISEF over the past 12 months and this year the overall first-place winner, who received the US$75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award, was Raymond Wang, 17, of Canada, who was awarded first place for engineering a new air inlet system for airplane cabins to improve air quality and curb disease transmission.

Wang’s system improves the availability of fresh air in the cabin by more than 190pc while reducing pathogen inhalation concentrations by up to 55 times compared to conventional designs, and can be easily and economically incorporated in existing airplanes.

At this year’s event, which took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, three teams representing Ireland and Northern Ireland took part, having secured their places at Intel ISEF after they became winners of Intel sponsored prizes at various Ireland-based science fairs over the past 12 months.

Taking on the world’s best at the biggest science fair in the world

They took on 1,700 young scientists selected from 422 affiliate fairs in more than 75 countries.

Anna McEvoy, a 17-year-old student at Our Lady’s College in Greenhills, Drogheda, was awarded both a second place award in the Plant Sciences category as well as a Monsanto Award for Innovation in Plant Science First Award for her project ‘Aetiology of bleeding canker disease of horse chestnut trees’.

Anna’s project involved research into the presence of bleeding canker on horse chestnut trees throughout Ireland and used an investigative method to identify the causal agent. As part of her awards Anna received cash prizes of US$2,500 and US$1,500. Anna was selected to attend ISEF after she was named Sentinus Young Innovator 2014.

Christopher Carragher, a sixth-year student from Our Lady’s Secondary School, Castleblaney, Co Monaghan picked up a second place award in the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics category for his project ‘Memory Buddy’. After becoming concerned by the signs of short-term memory loss being exhibited by a family member, Christopher set about designing an automated system to aid people with memory loss. Memory Buddy is a complete system designed and programmed by Christopher.

Using Google Calendar, the Memory Buddy can alert the person about appointments and medication via flashing lights, sound and also via the TV. It includes a remotely-controlled medicine drawer that presents the appropriate medicine at a particular time and there is a feedback facility that notifies a carer when medicine has or has not been taken. The system also includes an organiser that can be used to establish care rotas and appointments. Christopher earned his place at Intel ISEF after being crowned the overall winner of Scifest in 2014.

In addition to picking up US$1,500 cash prize Christopher also receives the very cool honour of having an asteroid named after him.

Shauna Murphy and Caoimhe Cronin, who are second year students from St Mary’s Secondary School in Mallow, Co Cork, picked up a fourth place award in the Chemistry category as well as a fourth place award from the American Chemical Society for their project entitled, ‘Measurement of radon emanation and its correlation with indoor radon levels in some areas of Mallow’. The project seeks to discover the geographical distribution of radon levels in dwellings in Mallow and investigate factors that affect radon emanation from different sources.

The Cork students were selected as the Intel student award winners at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2015 and as part of their prize received an all expenses-paid trip to Intel ISEF. The girls received a cash prize of US$1,500 for their achievements.

“Intel ISEF is the largest science fair in the world with a phenomenal array of projects on display,” said Sarah Sexton, head of STEM programmes at Intel in Ireland.

“The fact that the Irish students have done so well really is a testament to their hard work and to the standard of their projects. It is also a wonderful achievement for their teachers, Martin Timmons, Frances O’Regan and Cathryn Higgins. Intel is delighted to be able to sponsor the Irish teams to attend ISEF and we believe that it is so important to recognise and celebrate their achievements.

“We are very proud of the whole Irish team and hope that these students will be an inspiration to many other young people across Ireland,” Sexton said.


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years