MORE than 650 students with bright business and technology ideas took over Shannon Airport on Monday, as part of a special ‘young innovators’ event.
Arranged as part of the Irish Technology Leadership Group’s (ITLG) annual forum, some 50 schools from across Ireland took part in the event, where they were asked to come up with business ideas which could be used in Ireland in 2064.
The school groups were divided into six categories, and were mentored by staff from LIT, Dell and Coderdojo.
The students were asked to come up with inventions around how people will Live, Work, Play, Learn, Travel and Shop in 2064.
They were then whittled down to six teams, who had to present their ideas in a tough, Dragons’ Den style setting.
It was a group of youngsters from Castletroy College who won the competition overall - and a trip to the Silicon Valley in the summer - for their idea based around the reduction of water.
The team - Bombardier - designed a hybrid shower which can result in the killing off of bacteria. The triumphant team was: Ryan Harney, Jack English, Mark Long, Emma Grace, Aine Mooney, Jenny Akagha and Danielle Mitchell.
In order to win the competition they had to undergo a tough interrogation by Dragons’ Den stars Gavin Duffy, Sean O’Sullivan, Barry O’Sullivan, Peter Casey and Martina Newell-McLoughlin.
It was only just before the overall results were announced that the students found out they would be jetting to California, with ITLG chairman John Hartnett announcing that the top prize included a trip to a land he described as “the Disneyland of technology”.
Speaking immediately after the team won, Bruff lad Ryan Harney, 16, said: “I have an undying love for technology, so it will be great to see where it all happens. It will be an amazing experience.”
Castleconnell’s Jack English added: “We’re shocked but thrilled. We came out with no expectations and maybe that helped us to win it.”
The students only came up with the idea after a brainstorm in the morning.
Asked what he felt made them stand out, Ryan added: “I think it was everyone’s presentation skills. We were all a bit nervous going up to talk. We weren’t expecting to be in the [final] competition, let alone being in front of the Dragons.”
Schools from across the county took part in the competition, with a number of bright ideas, including a replacement for injections, a heart-rate controlled car, and a virtual teacher among other things. Judge Mr Duffy was full of praise for the event, saying: “I have not seen this happen anywhere else in Ireland, and I think the students here today are lucky to be exposed to this. I would like yo say to the Mid-West: well done for this: I think this is going to be a major national event within a few years.”
Munster star Keith Earls was also suitably impressed.
He was at Shannon with Niall Ronan to lend the students some support.
“They are a lot more creative then when I was at school. I think a lot of these kids are going to be wealthy in a few years time,” he said.
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He said he was impressed with one group which came up with a virtual rugby player.
“I’m sure a lot of people would like to have an avatar of Paul O’Connell around,” he laughed.