Historic Irish women scientists shortlisted for new supercomputer name

21 Feb 2018

Kay McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, one of those shortlisted for this competition, at her high school graduation. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The ICHEC and the Government are asking the public to choose the name of the latest supercomputer from a list that includes many prominent women scientists.

After five years of service, the Irish Centre for High-End Computing’s (ICHEC) Fionn supercomputer is heading into retirement, in preparation for a new supercomputer to be installed this year.

When installed, it will provide Irish researchers with high-performance computing power to address some of the toughest challenges in science and society, such as tackling climate change, improving healthcare and innovating Irish products through agriculture, engineering and manufacturing.

Future Human

To be made available to all Irish researchers, the supercomputer will also facilitate emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and earth observation.

So, to mark the occasion, the ICHEC and the Government have announced a competition for primary and secondary schoolchildren in Ireland to find a new name for the supercomputer from a list of six pioneering Irish scientists.

Students are encouraged to vote for a candidate by creating a short essay, poster or video to support their choice.

With International Women’s Day approaching, it is noteworthy that half of the nominees are some of the country’s most iconic women scientists.

The full list includes:

  • Kay Antonelli – Computer programmer
  • Francis Beaufort – Hydrographer
  • Nicholas Callan – Inventor and experimental physicist
  • Ellen Hutchins – Botanist
  • Richard Kirwan – Geologist
  • Eva Philbin – Chemist

Trailblazing scientists

The winning submissions – one from both primary and secondary level – will each be awarded eight Raspberry Pi-Tops for their respective classroom, with coding tutorials from ICHEC members.

“It is important to honour the amazing Irish scientists who have blazed a trail for the current and future generations of scientists,” said Prof JC Desplat, director of the ICHEC.

“We hope that the competition will inspire students to learn about the importance of computing for research and new discoveries, while recognising some of the Irish achievements in science and technology in the past.”

The competition is being hosted on an ICHEC microsite, with students encouraged to research all candidates and incorporate their research into their final submission ahead of the deadline at 12pm on 20 April.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic