Enterprising second-level students head to innovation bootcamp at UCD

4 Mar 2013

Anna Fitzpatrick from Scoil Chonglais, Co Wicklow; Eoin McMahon, Gonzaga College, Dublin; and Paula Faulkner, also from Scoil Chonglais, pictured at the launch of the skills camp at UCD

Over the next four days, 30 secondary school students from across Ireland will be on a mission to come up with business ideas for new innovations ranging from solar-powered fridges to a speech recognition aid to help with learning. The students are taking part in an innovation and skills camp that has been organised by BT as part of its Young Scientist programme.

BT picked the 30 students from those who competed in the Young Scientist exhibition in January based on their ability to understand how their project ideas could be developed into commercially viable enterprises.

The innovation and skills camp kicked off at NovaUCD today. Over the next four days students will get mentoring and will engage in group projects.

According to BT the idea of the bootcamp is to bridge the gap between education and business for students who show a flair for entrepreneurship.

BT Ireland’s managing director for business Shay Walsh, said the objective was to identify students with a natural flair for business and connect them with mentors who can share their knowledge and expertise.

Prof Peter Clinch, UCD’s vice-president for innovation, spoke about how the programme would help embed a culture of entrepreneurship amongst talented second-level students who are inspired by the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

“It is fitting that the programme takes place at NovaUCD, our centre for new ventures and entrepreneurs,” he said.

Mentors who will be working with students this week will include Caroline Gill, UCD’s innovation education manager; James Whelton, the co-founder of the CoderDojo movement; Dan Richardson from Intellectual Ventures; and Paul Maher from Analog Devices.

The mentors will be coaching the students as they work in groups to develop an outline business approach for a new start-up.

Some of the ideas that the student groups will work on will encompass the design of a solar-powered fridge, a medical alert bracelet and a portable solar panel tracker.

The teams will present their business plans to a judging panel on Thursday. The winners will get summer placements at NUI Galway, UCD, University of Limerick and University of Ulster. One student will also get the chance to speak at this year’s Dublin Web Summit.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic