Autism App wins top prize at 2017 BT Young Scientist Business Bootcamp

3 Mar 2017

From left: Lucy Leonard, Steven Harris, Ciara-Beth Ní Ghríofa, George Hennessy and Ella Brennan. Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

A group of budding Irish entrepreneurs have walked away with the grand prize at the 2017 BT Young Scientist Business Bootcamp with their app for people with autism.

Held in NovaUCD – University College Dublin (UCD)’s start-up incubator – the BT Young Scientist Business Bootcamp brings together some of Ireland’s brightest young entrepreneurs to show them how to set up and run a start-up.

This includes how to write a business plan, create a marketing campaign, draft a budget and present their ideas competently to senior academics and business people.

After four days of workshops, all students took part in a pitch competition to show off their business ideas and products in front of a panel of judges.

A group of teenagers from Galway, Cork, Kilkenny, Offaly and Dublin won the top award for their app designed to aid those with autism.

The winning app – called Mi Contact – is based on applied behaviour analysis to enhance early intervention programmes, and to encourage children with autism to make eye contact.

The team was made up of Ciara-Beth Ní Ghríofa (17) from Coláiste an Eachréidh, Galway; Ella Brennan (16) from Loreto Secondary School, Kilkenny; George Hennessy (17) from Midleton College, Cork; Lucy Leonard, (15) from Tullamore College, Offaly; and Steven Harris (18), Luttrellstown Community College, Dublin.

The original idea was developed by Ní Ghríofa, who had taken the idea to the 2017 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition earlier this year.

Individual award winner

Explaining why the Mi Contact team was chosen as the winner, the judges cited the participants’ progress throughout the boot camp and their well-planned and thought-out business pitch.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Jack O’Connor from Desmond College in Limerick was recognised as the best individual student.

He was awarded the prize for showing an in-depth understanding of the process of bringing an on-paper idea all the way through to project commercialisation.

Congratulating all of the participants, boot camp judge and BT Ireland managing director, Shay Walsh, said: “As judges and mentors, we’ve been inspired by their growing confidence and ability, and feel a sense of pride as a company to be able to support the next generation of business leaders, academics and professionals.”

Meanwhile, Prof Orla Feely, UCD vice-president for research, innovation and impact, added: “The aim of the boot camp is assist the participating students in developing their entrepreneurial thinking and understanding of the steps required to convert their innovative STEM ideas into sustainable businesses.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic