Irish student wins EU science prize


Ireland has once again claimed a major prize at the annual EU Young Scientist Competition.

Alexander Amini, who won the Irish young scientist accolade last January, went on to take a top award in the EU event for his project which uses computers to analyse a person’s tennis swing.

Alexander described himself as “extremely excited” shortly after his win was announced at the event, taking place this year in Helsinki.

The competition was much tougher than at last January’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS, the 16-year-old student at Dublin's Castlenock College said.

Even so, he had an inkling he was in line for some sort of prize.

He captured the top computing/engineering award, with similar first prizes in the maths and the chemistry categories going to student projects from Switzerland and Lithuania. Overall there were 87 entries from 37 countries assembled in Helsinki.

His win in January entitled him to participate as the Irish entry to the EU competition, with travel costs covered by the European Commission.

His project uses three sensors attached to arm, chest and leg of a person playing tennis, all of which feed back data which can be can be analysed by a computer. The suite of computer programmes prepared by Alexander can identify any one of 13 different tennis strokes with accuracies higher than 96 per cent.

These mathematical algorithms break up the data stream from the sensors and can provide valuable feedback on the quality of swing, placement of the racket and other aspects of interest to the player and coach.

His project was fully functional when it won the BT Young Scientist 2011 award earlier this year. He continued to refine it over the summer and added additional tennis swing analysis and improved the software.

While the research was directed towards a study of racquet swings when playing tennis, the same system could readily be used to assess movement in patients recovering from serious injury, he said.

As winner he receives a €7,000 prize and an honorary award. He also received an all-expenses paid trip to attend the London International Youth Science Forum.