A STUDENT mini-company which swept the boards in the Irish Junior Achievement awards has now come tops in Europe and their product, a mobile phone app for sign language, is set to go global.
Sign4Life began life as a Transition Year project at the Salesian Secondary College in Pallaskenry and was the brainchild of Colleen Mullane, Pallaskenry, Ciara Reidy, Patrickswell, Caoimhe O’Neill, Kildimo, Fiona Mangan, Kildimo and Chris O’Brien, Shanagolden.
Having won at county, provincial and national level in Ireland, Sign4Life represented Ireland at the European finals which took place in Romania last week and brought together 32 teams from 31 countries.
At the award ceremony last Saturday, the Irish team were named as Company of the Year 2012 – much to the astonishment of Sign4Life.
Describing their reaction, Ciara Reidy said: “At first we thought maybe we would get something but then they called out second runner up, then first runner up. Then they came to the winner and we tuned out. The next thing they called out Ireland and we just froze. We struggled to get to the podium.”
But, she added with feeling: “We are absolutely ecstatic.”
“We can’t believe it. It is so surreal,” Colleen Mullane added.
Their app is designed to teach some basic sign language and the team’s motivation was to improve communication between the hearing and the deaf community. In developing it, they were inspired by the deaf community in Limerick and worked closely with them making the signing video sequences.
“Our motto was life has no limits except the ones we make ourselves,” Colleen said, explaining what drove them. “We were not in it to make money,” Ciara Reidy emphasised. “We were in it to help.”
As part of the European competition, Sign4Life spent two days in Bucharest with their app on display, had to make a presentation to the panel of eminent judges and then had to undertake an in-depth interview.
And Ciara Reidy is convinced that it was their team-work and passion which won them the ultimate prize.
The team’s experience of taking part in Junior Achievement has been a fantastic one, enthused Caoimhe O’Neill.
“We have seen so much, we have learned so much. With some things, you have to make an effort. It isn’t going to come to you,” she explained.