Triumph at the BT Young Scientist

Wednesday January 10th
It was a cold, frosty morning leaving Kerry by train, bound for Dublin. Ciara, Saoirse, Ms Musgrave and I were full of excitement, our hopes were high and our many bags were bursting at their seams with our multiple props, laptops and visual display! On arrival at Heuston Station we hopped into an awaiting taxi which whisked us across the city to our hotel in Ballsbridge, The Herbert Park. After a quick check in we gathered all the essentials and made the short journey to the RDS for the 60th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.
Ciara and Saoirse were delighted with the location of their stand in the “Health and Wellbeing” area. The many Red Coats, who are helpers at BT were fantastic in assisting us put up our visual display and they gave us some very helpful advice. The girls put an enormous amount of time into the appearance of their amazing stand, we had props such as a model of the heart, brain, skeleton, a defibrillator, even confetti and balloons! Their attention to detail was outstanding.
At 2pm we were ushered into the BT Area for the opening ceremony. The atmosphere was electric, however tired we felt, this was quickly dissipated as we were swept away with the contagious, magical energy of this special event.
Once we returned to our stand there was a note stating the time of the first judge’s arrival. Ciara and Saoirse showed no sign of nerves, they were ready to proudly display their App ACT. They both spoke confidently and with ease with the judge for almost 30 minutes.
After lunch we had the opportunity to meet some celebrities, photographers and students from other schools around the country, this was a wonderful experience. On Wednesday evening after dinner an opening disco was held for all participating students, followed by a much needed early night to bed!

Thursday January 11th
After a great night’s sleep, we arose at 7:30am to start day 2 of BTYS. We enjoyed a lovely breakfast, gathered our belongings and by 9am we were striding into the RDS. Once again there was a notification stating the arrival times of two judges for that day. Ciara and Saoirse greeted and spoke with each judge with self-assurance, you could tell the judges were impressed with their knowledge and excellence. ACT was gathering a lot of interest with many pointing out how impactful it could be in helping people in a medical emergency.
That day the general public and schools could attend so there was an amazing atmosphere within the venue. It was a fantastic opportunity for Ciara and Saoirse to answer the many questions from various interested parties. We got to meet Ministers such as Pascal Donoghue, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, The President Michael D. Higgins, as well as celebrities from both TV and radio!
After lunch we got to explore, study other projects, meet new people and make new friends as well as enjoy the many fun activities and displays within the Exhibition Area.
At 5pm we once again gathered our belongings and headed back to our hotel for dinner. Following that we returned to the RDS for a table quiz which was great fun for the girls, teaming up with other Tralee students for the event. At about 10:30 we all collapsed into our beds, our heads full of the day’s happenings and of what tomorrow held in store!

Friday January 12th
The alarm was once again set for 7:30am and by now we were in the full swing of things! The day ahead was packed with excitement, Ciara and Saoirse couldn’t wait to meet their friends and classmates who had left Tralee at 6:30am on an O’Shea’s bus bound for D4! As well as all that Minister Norma Foley was pencilled in to visit the girls at 12:30 that day. Our enthusiasm and excitement was palpable. Ciara and Saoirse had hardly time to settle in when three judges descended at their stand. One judge on a Friday is great but three certainly raised an eyebrow or two! The girls were once again in their element, they were so knowledgeable about all aspects of ACT from coding it to where they envisaged it would be applicable. There was hardly time to catch our breath when three further judges approached, followed by another three, another two, until finally they had 19 in total to their stand that day in quick succession!
Text messages and phone calls were flying to their parents and Ms. Finucane. Interest around the girls and ACT intensified, fellow students and teachers from around the country were queuing up to admire their stand, view their coding and quiz them on all aspects of their project.
To say we were trilled and a little over-whelmed was an understatement! I felt so proud of the girls, they were representing our school so professionally, with friendliness and humour, they truly were amazing ambassadors for Pres.
Just when we thought nothing could top all the excitement, Minister Foley called to say “Hello” and appreciate the work Ciara and Saoirse had invested into ACT. The hugs, the smiles, the laughter and camera flashes were exhilarating. It was fabulous to see Minister Foley, Ciara and Saoirse, all Pres girls, all empowered women making waves in the world! Surely by now we had reached the pinnacle of our day!
Following several cups of coffee by the teachers to help calm our nerves, the time came to enter the BTYS Area for the Awards Ceremony. The atmosphere was charged with excitement, eager expectation, joy and jubilation. As the ceremony progressed we sat closer and closer to the edge of our seats. Finally it came towards the end of the ceremony and the top four awards! We listened and held our breaths, eventually hearing “Runner up Group 2024, the winners are, Ciara and Saoirse Murphy from Presentation Secondary School in Tralee, Co. Kerry” Our hearts swelled with joy, feelings of both pride and delight as we watched the girls receive their award from Minister Foley. She welcomed them on stage with a warm hug, it was fabulous to witness. That day will forever be remembered, a difficult one to surpass!

Saturday January 13th
After breakfast Ms Musgrave and I made our way to the RDS to ensure the stand looked fit for BTYS winners! It had been moved into the Winner’s Area so we set about blowing up balloons, arranging all the props to Ciara and Saoirse’s liking. It was so emotional to watch the girls trace their path from the main stand area to the winner’s, what a journey over the past few days!
Saturday had a different beat compared to previous days. So many interested parties and influential people and organisations carved their way through the crowds to meet these two young students from Kerry and enquire about ACT! Professor John O’Halloran – President of UCC, Jamie Heaslip – Stripe and ex Irish rugby international player, Dr. Tony Scott – co-founder of BTYS, Professor Pat Guiry – Head judge and UCD, Shay Walsh – MD of BT Ireland, just to mention a few!
The celebrations continued that evening with Ciara, Saoirse and their family enjoying the well earned fruits of their hard work.
So before I sign off I want to say to all Pres students let Ciara and Saoirse be your inspiration, look for any challenges or difficulties you encounter in your day to day, view them as opportunities to solve, let your curiosity fuel the journey, we believe in your potential.
I would like to wish Ciara and Saoirse every success in the future development of ACT, congratulations and know there is no limit to what you can achieve! We are immensely proud of you both.

Ms. Madigan

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