The future is secure in the hands of 2017’s Young Scientist winner

13 Jan 2017

From left: Shay Walsh, MD at BT Ireland; Shane Curran, winner of BTYSTE 2017; and Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, TD. Image: Connor McKenna

Shane Curran (16) from Terenure College took home the top prize at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) at Dublin’s RDS, securing the award for his cybersecurity project with a twist.

At the fourth time of asking, Dubliner Shane Curran took home the perpetual trophy at BTYSTE.

His project, called qCrypt: The quantum-secure, encrypted, data storage solution with multi-jurisdictional quorum sharing, wowed the judges, with Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, TD, praising the Dubliner’s achievement.

“It’s great that Shane’s project is in the cybersecurity field, an area of huge interest at the moment,” said Bruton, turning his attention to the event as a whole.

“We can be really optimistic about the future of this country, when you look at what was on offer here.”

We first came across Curran in 2011, when the then 11-year-old made a name for himself as a Linux prodigy. At just seven years of age, Curran had already earned how to program in Visual Basic and built a simple web browser that he made available for download online.

By 11, he had learned how to program in multiple languages, such as PHP, C, C++, Java, Python, Ruby, Perl and Bash.

He then stole the show at a 2012 Dublin Beta challenge, by then 12 years of age, setting up his own company with apparent ease.

“It’s phenomenal,” said an overwhelmed Curran after hearing his name called out, before quickly turning his attention to the next stage of his journey. Curran will go on to represent Ireland at the EU version of the event, to be held in Tallinn, Estonia in September.

Alongside that trip, Curran takes home the trophy, as well as a €5,000 prize. The only representative of Terenure College, it will be interesting to see if this win inspires a new generation of wannabe winners in the Dublin school after the event was once again dominated by Cork.

Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, TD. Image: Connor McKenna

Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, TD. Image: Connor McKenna

This year, the event saw the highest number of projects to date – 550 on show for an estimated 50,000 onlookers over the course of a few days.

1,142 students took part this year, with the girls once again outnumbering the boys (602 to 540). Cork’s strong showing of 125 students again topped the charts, with Dublin’s 84 in second.

“I think it was William Butler Yeats who said: ‘Education is not about filling a bucket, it’s about lighting a fire’,” quoted Bruton, noting that the teachers involved in this sphere up and down the country do just that.

Saying it has been a tough decade in Ireland, Bruton referenced Leonard Cohen when he said these students, and the competition as a whole, act as a crack to let the light in.

Among the dozens of winners announced on the night, a student that Silicon Republic visited on day one took home a category award for his project on a new type of fuel.

On Wednesday, Gregory Tarr from Bandon Grammar School in Cork told us his algae oil could be the start of a multibillion-dollar business in the decades to come. The judges seem to have agreed.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic