Some of the sccessful students from Moate Community School. Att back from left Lilly Daly, Leah Winters; second row, teacher Margaret Mandal, Kerry Sun, Terry Heffernan, Domhnall Molloy, Millie O'Donovan; and front, Hannah Higgins, Katie Creggy and Aoife Ross.

Great showing by Westmeath students at BTYSTE

Two projects from North Westmeath have received awards at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, and a number of other awards have gone to schools in the south Westmeath area.

The two successful North Westmeath projects were a "Autodoor" designed by Coláiste Mhuire students Cillian Newcombe from Delvin and Matthew Daugela from Killulagh, and "The Name Game: Do people judge you based on your first name rather than on observed ability?" by Castlepollard Community College students Bartle D'Arcy from Fore and Adam Maxwell from Collinstown.

Bartle and Adam's project won a third prize award in its category while Cillian and Matthew's was highly commended. Both teams also each received a display award.

Bartle and Adam’s online surveys and games test for bias in name association

When Castlepollard Community College students Bartle D’Arcy and Adam Maxwell - who were guided by teacher Stephen Melody - posed the question: “Do people associate certain characteristics with first names?” they made the discovery that often people are indeed judged based on their first name rather than on observed ability.

The boys found lots of fascinating things, such as the fact that teachers are more likely to encourage a girl with a short name to focus on STEM subjects; that people love the sounds in Matthew and Sophie.

Questionnaires to parents about what influenced their name choice elicited from 65% that they chose a name because of how it sounded. The boys surveyed teachers about bias; they created online surveys - including one where children were asked to match names with cute animals.

At the RDS, they invited people to play a “name game” that allowed participants to check if they had preconceived ideas - and even the adjudicators showed they had.

“We are posting all our findings on so check out our findings and our games there,” say the boys.

Killulagh and Delvin students' invention eliminates need for physical keys or cards

The difficulty that visually-impaired people can have in opening a locked door is what inspired Coláiste Mhuire teammates Matthew Daugela from Killulagh and Killian Newcombe from Delvin to invent ”The Autodoor”. The two have known each other most of their lives as they attended St Tola’s together, and even though they are just in first year they came up with a clever way of using facial recognition software to work around something that can be a real challenge for many people.

The project works by using a Raspberry Pi programme to open the door once the user has passed the facial recognition test.

“If it does not recognize the face, the door will not open,” says Matthew adding that this means the system has a security advantage and a plus is that there are no physical objects that can be lost or stolen.

For the exhibition, the boys - led by teacher Eva Acton - had to build a door and doorframe; programme the Raspberry Pi and rig up a motor and wheel to open the door.

Other Westmeath successes

Two of the Westmeath entries were named as winners of special awards: Aine Shortall and Kate Whyte of Moate Community School won the Teagasc Special Award for "A Sweeter Way to Treat Equine Parasites", which also received a second place category award; and "An Investigation into the Feasibility of Using Microcontrollers in Buoyancy Aids to Prevent Marine Casualties" by Marist College duo Donal McDermott and Tega Awhinawhi, who received the COMREG – Commission for Communications Regulation award and who were highly commended in their category.

Other Westmeath awards that received category prizes were, from Moate Community School, Kerry Sun, Terry Heffernan and Domhnall Molloy who received a third place award for "Garden Greening: Designing a Biodiversity Pillar to Remedy the Problems of Modern Gardening"; and Leah Winters, Lilly Daly Millie O’Donovan who received a second place award for "Bio Enzymes - a cooler way to wash".

Other projects from Westmeath that were highly commended "A BSF Miracle" by Jasper Ryan, Seán Brennan and Shreyash Shukla of Athlone Community College; and "Driving the Elderly to a Safer Future: Using Video Games to Improve the Peripheral Vision of Elderly Drivers" by Moate Community School students Emily Winters, Evanna Farrell and Niamh Kelly; and Moate Community School students Hannah Higgins, Aoife Ross and Katie Creggy for "Plan Bee: A Natural Nutritious Feed for Bees during Autumn".

Display awards also went to Moate Community School students Hannah Higgins, Aoife Ross and Katie Creggy for Plan Bee: A Natural Nutritious Feed for Bees during Autumn; to Our Lady's Bower student Micihelle Hughes for her project "Dead or Alive" and to Mia Olwill of Athlone Community College for her "Investigation of sustainable methods for waste water bioremediation: including Spent mushroom substrate (SMS) and alginate from seaweed".