Limerick students’ robot footballer wins grand prize at Intel Mini Scientist

5 Feb 2018

From left: Winners of the Intel Mini Scientist competition were Ben Sheehan, Eva Donnelly, Conor Mulcahy and Cian Mulcahy from Scoil Íde, Corbally, Limerick, Image: Marc O’Sullivan

Primary-school students from across the country took part in the Intel Mini Scientist competition, with four Limerick students crowned champions.

Now in its 11th year, the Intel Mini Scientist competition tasks 8,000 students from fourth, fifth and sixth class across 185 schools to present their scientific and technological creations. The aim is to make the grand final, which was held this year in Dublin City University on 2 February.

Of 3,000 projects exhibited as part of the national competition, the grand final whittled this number down to just 28 after the hosting of regional finals in Dublin, Shannon and Cork.

Each of the projects included visual displays, projects books and practical experiments based on a scientific area aligned with the national primary science curriculum.

So, after much deliberation, it was announced that the winner of the main event was a team made up of Conor Mulcahy, Cian Mulcahy, Ben Sheehan and Eva Donnelly from Scoil Íde in Corbally, Co Limerick.

The students’ project, called RoboBall, was a complex game created using the coding language JavaScript, with the object being to score goals by controlling a robot.

To do so, the robot has to bypass a team of tough autonomous robot defenders. To make their project even more advanced, the children added goal-line technology and an electronic scoreboard.

For the success of its students, Scoil Íde will receive a grant of €1,000 from Intel.

A number of other projects were also commended for their efforts.

Runner-up awards

  • Rough sleep? Not Any More – Barefield National School, Ennis, Co Clare
  • The Ultrasonic Hat – Belmayne Educate Together National School, Dublin 13
  • A Way With the Wind – Scoil Mhuire Fatima, Portlaoise, Co Laois
  • The Automatic Washing Line – Scoil Phádraig Boys’ National School, Clane, Co Kildare
  • Road Alert – Wicklow Montessori Primary School, Co Wicklow

Additional special prizes

  • Best communications award: The Power of Tsunamis – CBS Primary School, Ennis, Co Clare
  • Best project book: Ecological Roulette – Gorey Educate Together National School, Co Wexford
  • Best visual display: DNA: Answers in our Genes – Kildalkey National School, Co Meath
  • Most innovative idea: Digital Step Chart – St Joseph’s National School, Kilcock, Co Kildare

Speaking of the award winners, Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, TD, said: “It’s fantastic to see such energy and passion for the STEM subjects from the over 8,000 students who participated in the Intel Mini Scientist competition.

“We are living in a world that is being transformed by digital technology and it’s crucial that our education system responds.”

Updated, 8.05am, 6 February 2018: This article was updated to clarify the location of Scoil Phádraig Boys’ National School in Clane, Co Kildare, not Co Clare as previously stated.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic