Dubliner Adam Kelly wins 2019 BT Young Scientist Exhibition

He will represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Bulgaria

Dubliner Adam Kelly wins 2019 BT Young Scientist Exhibition

17-year-old Adam Kelly wins the 55th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition | Image: Facebook/BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition

17-year-old Adam Kelly has been announced as the winner of the 55th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.

The fifth year student, from Skerries Community College in Dublin, has taken home the top prize for his project entitled "Optimizing The Simulation Of General Quantum Circuits".

The prize was presented to him on Friday by Education Minister Joe McHugh and managing director of BT Ireland, Shay Walsh.

Adam's award includes the prize of €7,500 and the BTYSTE perpetual trophy.

He will also represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, taking place in Bulgaria in September 2019.

Speaking after his win, Adam said: "My project was about quantum computing, so that's talking about computers that use quantum physics to do computations.

"It's kind of weird in that it's a topic that's gotten a lot of media attention, especially in the last number of years, despite that fact it's still a very new technology and it's not very well developed yet.

"But there's a lot of people working on it and there's a surprising amount of money going into it, especially from different government agencies".

Adam Kelly accepts his award on stage at the 55th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition | Image: Facebook/BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition

Explaining his project, he said: "The algorithms that you develop for quantum computers... can be a lot more efficient than the ones we can do on classical computers.

"A very common example given is for factoring numbers - you can do it really quickly on a quantum computer.

"And that's a really key part of the encryption used, for example, to send you credit card data across the internet.

"So that's one of the big tagline problems.

"But quantum computers aren't just for factoring numbers - they could be used for simulating chemistry, for solving optimisation problems, and then in more broad areas like machine learning and artificial intelligence".

Minister McHugh said: "The atmosphere of excitement, creativity and fun at the RDS this week has been incredible.

"I am particularly pleased to see so many young people tackling some of the most important issues facing us, from climate change to health, to technology, ethics and societal change.

"The students are a credit to their families, schools and teachers and they should rightly be proud of being here. They are a huge inspiration."

Shay Walsh, managing director of BT Ireland, said: "I want to congratulate every student that entered, and Adam, our overall winner.

"His work shows terrific initiative, dedication and brilliance in tackling an immensely complex area of modern computing."

Adam has developed a tool to select the optimum algorithm for the simulation of particular quantum circuits, which may inform the development of a practical quantum computer, which is still at an early stage.

This could have implications across many areas, including cybersecurity.

Other awards

The award for group winner went to Aoife Morris and Tianha Williams, both aged 16 and transition year students from St Aloysius College Carrigtwohill, Cork for their project entitled 'Developing an organic solar cell coating solution to mitigate fossil fuels usage by motor vehicles'.

The individual runner-up award was presented to Yasmin Ryan, aged 16, from St Andrew's College, Dublin for her project entitled 'Discovery of the Ideal Microenvironment for the Differentiation of hiPSCs into Islets of Langerhans'.

The group runners-up award was presented to Danila Fedotov and Filip Caric, aged 17 and 18, from North Monastery Secondary School, Cork for their project entitled 'A Wearable Device Which Assists Caretakers by Providing them with the Information on the Well-Being of Their Patients'.

The number of project entries has almost tripled - from 606 in 2000 to 1,803 in 2019 - with entries submitted from across the island of Ireland.

Just over 55% of qualified entrants are female, with a significant increase of 62% in the number of girls qualifying in the chemical, physical, and mathematical sciences category this year.

While 10% of entries for 2019 are from DEIS schools.