Irish Students triumph at Intel ISEF

A total of 3 awards (2 special awards and 1 category award) were picked up by Irish students attending the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which is the world’s largest high school science research competition in the World.

This year’s event took place in Phoenix, Arizona, with 4 teams representing Ireland and Northern Ireland, having secured their places after they became winners of Intel sponsored prizes at various Ireland and EU based science fairs over the past 12 months.

1. Louis Madden, a fifth-year student from Largy College, Clones, Co Monaghan picked up two special awards at the event for his project ‘Bringing Genetics to the Masses: The Development of a Low Cost DNA Extraction and Profiling Kit’ which competed in the Plant Sciences category. Louis received an award to participate in the “Web Valley” summer school in Trento, Italy from the Fondazione Bruno Kessler as well as a cash award from the Monsanto Company. Louis’ project looked at whether genetic testing and DNA research can be carried out simply, cheaply and efficiently. He found that important genetic research was often limited by the cost of the necessary equipment. He spent just under €150 on cheap and recycled material to build several pieces of laboratory equipment including a vortex, centrifuge, PCR, transilluminator, gel box with power supply and gel camera. Using this equipment, he isolated and amplified chloroplast DNA using a proprietary DNA extraction kit. Comparing his results with those of other tests of the same material he demonstrated that genetic testing could be done in a simpler, cheaper and more effective manner. Louis earned his place at Intel ISEF after being crowned the overall winner of Scifest in 2015.

2. Lauren Murphy, a transition year student at Loreto Secondary School, Balbriggan was awarded a third place award in the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics category for her project A Rehabilitation Aid for the Treatment of ‘Clenched Fist,’ Condition in Multiple Sclerosis. Lauren’s project involved the development of an aid to assist those with Multiple Sclerosis to perform exercises to improve the action of opening and closing the fist thus helping to alleviate the difficulty of ‘Clenched Fist’. As part of her project Lauren developed a mechanical prototype which includes integrated electronics consisting of a set of sensors and a microcontroller printed circuit board. As part of her award Lauren received a $1000 cash prize. Lauren was selected to attend ISEF after she was named Sentinus Young Innovator 2015.

3. Also taking part at Intel ISEF this year were Gabriel Barat and Adrian Wolniak from Synge Street CBS in Dublin with their project ‘A Mathematical Model of Coffee Rust’ which examined how coffee rust disease is a serious economic problem in Central America and proposes a mathematical model that suggests an effective way of limiting its spread. The Dublin students were selected as the Intel student award winners at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2016 and as part of their prize received an all expenses trip to Intel ISEF.

4. Eimear Murphy and Ian O’Sullivan from Coláiste Treasa, Kanturk, Co. Cork also took part at the event in Phoenix after being selected as prize winners at the EU contest for Young Scientists in Milan last year. The Cork pair were also named the overall winners of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in 2015 for their project ‘Alcohol consumption: Does the apple fall far from the tree?’ which involved a detailed study which aimed to identify one potential cause of hazardous drinking in teenagers – parental drinking habits and attitudes to their children’s drinking.


Text adapted from Intel website


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