Which Irish students were named winners at ISEF 2018?

21 May 2018

19-year-old Mayo student Aaron Hannon with his award-winning device. Image: ISEF 2018

Following a successful week at Intel ISEF 2018, Irish student Aaron Hannon can welcome the news that he has had an asteroid named after him.

Last November, 19-year-old Mayo native Aaron Hannon achieved national success having been awarded the top prize at SciFest 2017 – a series of science fairs that takes place across Ireland in secondary schools – for creating a device to assist people with limited hand dexterity to shave.

This allowed him to travel to the science extravaganza that is the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in the US last week, to take part in the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, involving 1,700 students from more than 75 countries competing for a prize fund totalling $4m.

Future Human

So, it was cause for celebration that the student from St Muredach’s College in Ballina was named as the recipient of a first in his category – embedded systems.

Not only did this see Hannon win a prize worth $3,000, but it also saw him being lucky enough to have an asteroid named after him.

His device was inspired by his late grandfather who lived with limited hand dexterity following a stroke, and Hannon’s creation would have enabled his grandfather to shave, despite his condition.

The device is user-friendly and was created through technical research to develop the physical, electrical and software aspects.

A mannequin head was used to test the device and an Android app was designed to allow greater ease of use.

Success for Louth and Cork

Speaking about attending ISEF, Hannon said: “I really enjoyed meeting young people from all over the world and seeing the different projects that they are working on.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and to learn, and I am so thankful to my family, friends, teachers and everyone at SciFest who have supported me up to now.”

Interestingly, this wasn’t his first taste of international success, having been named as one of the winners at last year’s International Chemistry Olympiad.

Hannon also wasn’t the only Irish prize winner at the event, with Fionn Ferreira of Schull Community College in Cork coming in second place in the chemistry category for his investigation into the removal of microplastics from water using ferrofluids, winning him a prize of $1,500.

Finally, Niamh Ann Kelly from Our Lady’s College in Drogheda, Co Louth, was named a third-place winner in the plant sciences category for her project examining the antimicrobial potential of tree bark extracts, winning her a prize of $1,000.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic