Tipperary Receives Six Awards at The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2024

The winner of the 60th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) has been announced. Seán O’Sullivan, aged 17, a 5th year student from Coláiste Chiaráin in Limerick, has won the top prize with his project, VerifyMe: A new approach to authorship attribution in the post-ChatGPT era. The BTYSTE perpetual trophy was presented to the winner this evening at the RDS by Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD and Managing Director of BT Ireland, Shay Walsh.


Since OpenAI released ChatGPT in November of 2022, the line between human-written and AI-generated text has blurred, leaving academia and industry searching for a reliable method to discern “true” human authorship. In his project, Seán considered the challenges of author verification in the context of the significant improvements in Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT. He developed a novel approach to author authentication that identifies stylistic differences to verify authorship.


Chair of the Technology Group Judging Panel, Leonard Hobbs said, “The judges were hugely impressed by Sean’s innovative approach to addressing a problem that has only recently emerged and his programming skills in architecting a complex software solution.”


Seán is the 60th recipient to win the highly coveted trophy, and the top prize of €7,500. Seán will now also represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) taking place later this year in the European City for Science 2024 – Katowice, Poland.


Speaking at the awards ceremony this evening, Minister for Education Norma Foley TD said, “I’d like to sincerely congratulate Seán O’Sullivan from Coláiste Chiaráin in Limerick on his tremendous achievement of winning top prize in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2024. His win is testament to his hard work and dedication and the unwavering support of his family, teachers and school. It comes in the 60th year of the exhibition, when we must give significant credit to founders Dr Tony Scott and Fr Tom Burke who had the vision and determination to first establish this event in Ireland back in 1963 and to all of those who have nurtured and celebrated scientific research in our school communities in the years since. Our thanks also to BT for their dedication to supporting and empowering students along the way to the momentous occasion of showcasing their own scientific research at the exhibition.


“Meeting students exhibiting projects this week and witnessing the innovation, creativity and attention to detail which they have applied to their research has been a great honour. As the 2022 results of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) show, 15-year-olds in Ireland significantly outperform many of their counterparts across the OECD in science. The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition continues to demonstrate the breadth of what’s possible in our world when open and inquiring minds ask questions and explore new opportunities and solutions. Along with the Government, I am committed to continuing to promote uptake in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in our schools for the benefit of all learners.”


Abigail O’Brien Murray, Erica O’Brien Murray and Olivia O’Shea, all aged 18, and in 6th year in Loreto Secondary School Balbriggan in Dublin, won the prize for Best Group, with their project, Let’s Save the Common Ash!: A Continued Story. This is the second year this project has been recognised at the exhibition having previously been awarded Runner-up Group in 2023.


Dr. Richard O’Hanlon, Group Biological & Ecological Category Judge, said, “These young scientists carried out several large and robust experiments, involving both lab and field testing. Building on work they presented in the 2023 BTYSTE, they found that their treatments had the ability to reduce disease by more than 80%. This work is an important step towards developing a pathway to save our trees.”


Philippa McIntosh aged 16, and in 4th year in Bandon Grammar School in Cork, won the prize for Individual Runner-Up, with her project, Beyond Numbers: The textual challenge of Junior Cycle maths for Dyslexic Students.


Dr. Sinead Smyth, Head of the Social and Behavioural Individual Category Judging Panel said, “Philippa has conducted a very rigorous research project and has clearly shown that the phrasing of questions on the Junior Certificate higher level maths exams means that students who are actually good at maths but experience reading challenges, may be disadvantaged by over-complex wording. This important finding should be taken on board in curriculum design and assessment.”


Sisters Ciara Murphy and Saoirse Murphy aged 16 and 14 respectively, from Presentation Secondary School Tralee in Kerry won the prize for Runner-Up Group, with their project, AID-CARE-TREAT (ACT), an immediate, accessible, technological aid to assist in medical emergencies, supported by a comprehensive repository of medical information.


Professor Joe Barry, Chair of the Health & Wellbeing Group Judges, said, “I would like to congratulate Ciara and Saoirse and look forward to the further development and implementation of this exciting and impactful project, which has the real potential to save lives and lead to earlier treatments.”


Shay Walsh, Managing Director of BT Ireland, which organises the exhibition, concluded by saying: “I have been lucky enough to be involved in the exhibition for almost a quarter of a century, since BT first became custodians. Being able to see first-hand the creativity and innovation of Ireland’s future leaders has been a real privilege. This year’s competition has been no exception with projects seeking to address real-world issues involving AI, health, and sustainability to name but a few.”


While the calibre of entries across the board has been outstanding, on behalf of all the team at BT Ireland, I would like to congratulate all the finalists of the 2024 exhibition and thank them for sharing their remarkable ideas and innovations with us. And to all this year’s winners, we look forward to seeing the future impact you will all undoubtedly make.


Lastly, a special word of thanks to the teachers, parents, and guardians for their ongoing support, as well as our panel of expert judges, partners, volunteers and the BT team more broadly. This is a collective effort and one we are incredibly proud to be part of.”


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