Bright spark: Dublin student wins top European young scientist prize


A STUDENT from Castleknock College, Dublin, has won the top prize at the annual EU Young Scientist Competition in Helsinki.

Alexander Amini (16) beat competitors from 37 countries with a project that uses computer technology to analyse a person’s tennis swing.

The project has significant commercial potential and the student has already had offers from groups hoping to commercialise it, Alexander said yesterday shortly after his win was announced.

The winner earned the right to participate at the EU event after becoming the BT Young Scientist for 2011 at the RDS last January.

“I can’t express how excited I am. I can’t believe I actually achieved this,” he told The Irish Timesyesterday. “I definitely felt I was in the running for some kind of prize.”

He had not considered that he would actually win the top computing/engineering award at the annual competition.

His was one of three first placed awards with matching maths and chemistry prizes going to students from Switzerland and Lithuania.

He was up against serious competition, with many of the 87 science projects brought there by university students. His original project involved mounting sensors on a tennis player’s arm, leg and chest and using information coming from the sensors to analyse the athlete’s swing.

The system depends on a collection of software programs developed by Amini and using them it can identify 13 distinct swings, such as forehand, backhand, topspin or serve, with 96 per cent accuracy.

It provides invaluable help for the player and also the coaching staff. Moreover, it can help inform training and practice routines.

The winner sought to improve on his design, working the whole summer in the run-up to Helsinki to increase the accuracy of his maths-based system. He travelled to a tennis coaching centre in Barcelona where he ran his system with 24 professional players.

He wants to study computer science when he completes his Leaving Cert next summer, but has not made up his mind what university to attend.