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Big success for West Cork’s young scientists

January 17th, 2021 9:45 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Bandon’s Greg Tarr took the top award at the BTYSE

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WEST Cork enjoyed huge success at the first virtual BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSE), with Bandon Grammar School’s Gregory Tarr winning the overall prize, and others securing category awards.

For Gregory, the realisation that he won the overall prize for his project titled ‘Detecting state-of-the art Deepfakes’ is still sinking in, with interest in his work already coming from various tech companies.

The 17-year-old Leaving Cert student – who is no stranger to the competition, having won awards on four previous occasions  – said winning the top title is a ‘dream come true.’

‘This was totally unexpected,’ Gregory told The Southern Star.

He watched the online awards ceremony from his home just outside Bandon last Friday, along with his parents Nita and Richard.

The inspiration for the project he presented in the senior age group of the technology category, was inspired by a video of incoming US president Joe Biden.

‘I had seen a deepfake video of Joe Biden which had led to the ‘Sleepy Joe’ scandal and I started researching about deep fakes. I have been studying AI (Artificial Intelligence) for the past four or five years so I knew that AI had been used to make that video and that there are methods to detect deep fakes.’

Gregory developed a sophisticated AI software programme that can efficiently detect Deepfake media with state-of-the-art accuracy. The software made significant improvements on speed and accuracy when compared to the current model without sacrificing its ability to accurately detect the fake.

‘It’s almost poetic to win it on the fifth time. I’m not releasing it yet but have already had interest from tech companies about my work and doors are flying open that I didn’t know existed.’

While undecided on a third level course yet, he will however look at different paths and opportunities and hinted at commercialising his project.

He has high praise for the organisers of this year’s event who were forced to host it online for the first time in its history. He also thanked his teachers from Bandon Grammar School. He took home the top prize of €7,500 and the BTYSE perpetual trophy and goes on to represent Ireland in the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Salamanca in Spain this September.

St Brogan’s College, also in Bandon, had several winners including Newcestown student Cian Walsh who won the Teagasc award for his project looking at the social, economic and environmental benefits and drawbacks of growing hemp.

Second year students, Saoirse O’Neill and Tomás Markey won first place in the Junior Group Social and Behaviour category for their project entitled E.Y.E (Enhance Your Education).

Meanwhile, Cathal O’Sullivan from Beara Community School won the ABP Farm Safety Award for his innovative project entitled ‘Preventing machine accidents with warning systems.’

One Macroom student, Finn Brady of De La Salle, was awarded third place in the Intermediate Individual Social and Behavioural Science category for his highly topical project about the psychological and social impact of face masks/ face coverings in society.

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