Monaghan student bags top prize at SciFest 2015

7 Dec 2015

SciFest 2015 winner Louis Madden (right), with RTÉ presenter Jen Cleary. Image via Intel Ireland

The town of Clones in Co Monaghan is no doubt celebrating after one of its young innovators, fifth-year student Louis Madden, has been named the overall winner of the all-island science competition, SciFest 2015.

Held at the Marino Conference Centre in Dublin, the SciFest 2015 event is one of the biggest annual events in the country, and aims to encourage active, collaborative and inquiry-based learning among second level students.

Now in its second year, the event saw more than 7,200 students exhibiting their projects in local and regional science fairs across the country, with Madden one of the 48 students who went on to exhibit their 27 STEM projects. last featured Madden as one of the three Irish finalists of this year’s Google Science Fair for his project which is able to drastically reduce the cost of genetic research, typically expensive due to the cost of the testing equipment.

To do this, he spent just under €150 on cheap and recycled material to build several pieces of laboratory equipment, including a vortex, centrifuge, PCR, transilluminator, gel box with power supply and gel camera.

With all of this affordable quipment, he was then able to isolate and amplify chloroplast DNA using a proprietary DNA extraction kit in the same way a much more expensive kit would have done.

As an Intel sponsored event, Madden will now represent Ireland at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. He will be accompanied by his teacher, Sharon Magennis.

CEO of SciFest, Sheila Porter, said of his achievement: “The innovation and the creativity on display at the national final is a testament to the hard-work and dedication put in by the students and their teachers.

“Louis will be representing Ireland at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the USA next year and I am confident he will do us proud.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic