Smart bin for sorting waste among breakthroughs at BT Young Scientist 2020

8 Jan 2020

BTYSTE 2020 volunteers. Image: Connor McKenna/

BT Young Scientist 2020 has kicked off, with more than 1,000 young innovators showing off concepts including a smart bin to take the hassle out of sorting waste.

Each year of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) mirrors the trends of its time, and 2020 is no different. Among the 1,100 or so students – representing 244 schools across the country – many of the projects are focused on developing remedies for the continuing climate crisis. There are also a number of projects looking at mental health, transgender rights and effects of social media on young people.

The students have been showing off their projects to the media today (8 January) on the first day of the event, but also to renowned physicist Brian Cox who was in town to deliver a keynote for the business leaders symposium, Nextipedia. Over the course of BTYSTE this week, more than 50,000 members of the public are expected to come check out the projects.

Among those checked out was Bin Buddy, developed by James O’Malley and Cathal O’Mara of Castletroy College, Co Limerick. The eco-conscious pair have designed a smart bin that sorts compost and recyclables into separate bins.

Your Bin Buddy

The container comes equipped with a camera to snap a picture of the waste put on a green pad. That image is then sent to a Raspberry Pi computer and, using image recognition software, can move a chute at the bottom of the bin. These predetermined positions will be for one of the two types of waste – either compost or recyclables – for easier sorting later on.

The machine learning software was trained using 22,500 images to look for patterns and determine what a piece of compost or a recyclable object looks like. Eventually, the team hopes to find ways to allow for the bin to also sort general waste and be solar powered.

Another pair of inventors, hailing from Borrisokane Community College, Co Tipperary, found a way to turn household chimneys into electricity generators. Cillian Bergin and Michael Haugh wanted to find a way to convert the wasted smoke into an electricity source through the spinning of a turbine at the top of the stack.

The electricity generated by the turbine can currently generate enough electricity to charge phones or other small devices in the home. Bergin and Haugh also ran studies to determine which fuel sources created larger amounts of electricity, with logs being the most efficient.

Complexity of the human mind and colliding galaxies

Meanwhile, looking at the complexity of the mind was Ciara Fallon, Maire Flatley and Arlene Devery from Our Lady’s Bower, Co Westmeath. Their project, entitled Reeling in the Years, is an app designed to help older people with dementia, using machine learning. It uses pattern matching and images to help forge stronger memories.

They said that while other services already out there use image association to help those with dementia, theirs is one of the first to use machine learning. In the future, they also hope to incorporate music into the app.

Finally, Ciara McCormick, Katie Shaw and Alice Maddock O’Driscoll of Mount Anville Secondary School in Dublin simulated what it would be like if two interacting galaxies’ supermassive black holes collided.

They found that after the black holes collided, it would result in a merging of epic proportions in the centre of the galaxies. The trio now hope to take what they’ve learned from this research and determine what happens during and after the collision of black holes.

Launching the event today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, said those students taking part are the “change makers and problem solvers of tomorrow”. “I wish everyone involved the very best of luck for this year’s event and for the future,” he added.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic