Smart, easy-to-market products put technology centre stage at RDS

Young business entrepreneurs impress with innovative technology

Justine Munoz from St. Mary's College in Derry has done a comparative study of the possible antibiotic effects of a range of air fresheners. Justine is competing in the 2014 BT Young Scientist Exhibition.


Business entrepreneurs are exhibiting in numbers at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition under way at the RDS, some of them aged 14 years old and younger.

“This [stand] is like our first press release,” said Ben Nolan of St Colmcille’s Community School, Dublin, who with classmate Fionnuala Connolly has developed a product called Mediavista Connect. The Connect allows the user to use their smartphone to create a TV media centre, effectively turning an ordinary TV into a smart TV at very little cost, Ben explained.

He is the tech-head, while Fionnuala is the marketing guru for their nascent company Mediavista. They are developing the company website and have already sold one prototype over eBay to provide cash to build more Connect devices, said Fionnuala.

Affordable cost
“We plan on manufacturing them through the school,” Ben added. “We have been negotiating with them.”

The pair wanted a way to mimic a smart TV, but at an affordable cost – €50. The resultant box uses the Raspberry Pi platform (for those who understand such things), and delivers a service with the phone acting as keyboard, the Connect as laptop and the TV as a screen.

It comes with an app that allows a wireless link between smartphone and the small Connect box, explained Fionnuala. “It works with any format: Apple, Android, Windows, except for Blackberry,” added Fionnuala. “It delivers services like Netflix, MP3 and 4 formats, and jpg [pictures].”

Tiernan O’Rourke (15), a fourth-year student at Coláiste Chiaráin, Limerick, has developed a similarly marketable product – the “autonomous motion tracking tripod”. A keen videographer, he wanted a way to overcome “a lack of production values” seen in many home videos, such as camera shake and poorly-aimed shots.

Working prototype
His automated tripod corrects these flaws, offering a rigid platform for the camera, and a system that automatically remains pointed at a subject even when it moves.

He designed and developed a working prototype tripod and used CSharp and Arduino programming languages to control its framing and tracking.

“The hardest part was the programming, definitely,” he said of the project which took three months to deliver for the exhibition. He hopes to make a career in video and filming, but may have an alternative business option with his tripod.

Erin Bennett (16), a fifth year at St Mary’s in Limavady, Co Derry, pursued the inventor’s route in the field of medicine. She developed a low-cost device that shows whether asthmatics with inhalers are using them to best effect.

The prototype uses a microphone and amplifier to record the sound of a person’s inhalation. This is then reprocessed by computer to show whether costly inhaler prescriptions are reaching the lungs properly, Erin explained. “If you don’t use it properly you are going to lose 90 per cent of the medication.”

She thinks it would be useful in a doctor’s surgery and can also be used to coach those using inhalers about the right technique.