NEWLY-crowned all-Ireland Intel Mini Scientist winners Sinéad Byrne and Laura Miller were the toast of their school at a wonderful homecoming celebration in Timahoe NS.
The sixth-class girls were greeted by a welcoming party that included students, staff, parents, members of the board of management and the parents’ association, Noreen McInerney from Portlaoise and guest of honour, foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan.
The delighted winners entered the hall to the appropriate sound of Queen’s We are the champions. Minister Flanagan told them: “You are indeed champions and we are all so very proud of you and your achievements.”
The minister also paid tribute to the school community, commenting: “Timahoe NS is a nest of science and innovation. This augurs so well for their future and for ours as, with science on our side, Ireland is in a position to provide leadership in innovation on a worldwide basis.”
Principal Ann Bergin pointed out that it was Laura and Sinead’s empathy with others that triggered innovation. She said: “Innovation is a uniquely strong Irish characteristic and innovation is the key to how we all develop and indeed thrive.”
Timahoe NS made history by becoming the first school in Ireland to achieve a top science award for the second year running, taking the all-Ireland Intel Mini Scientist title in both 2015 and 2016. No school has ever pulled off back-to-back wins in the history of the competition, which annually attracts more than 6,000 projects.
The ‘Leaping Labradors’ entry by 12-year-olds Sinéad and Laura created a video game for visually-impaired players. It will be available for free download soon from the National Council for the Blind (NCBI) website.
The two girls presented their ‘Leaping Labradors’ to an attentive audience at the homecoming, as they outlined how they came up with the award-winning idea for their video game for visually-impaired players.
As well as trialling the game at St Joseph’s School for visually-impaired children in Dublin, they also asked Portlaoise native Noreen McInerney for advice. Noreen was a guest at the homecoming with her guide dog Hugh.
Noreen said: “I was delighted to see the game develop. When I was a child, there were no audible games or use of technology. Tactile ‘x’s and ‘o’s and braille cards were as good as it got. I am honoured to have supported the girls in their brilliant achievement.”
Board of management chairman John Delaney congratulated the girls for representing the school so well. On behalf of the board, he and minister Flanagan made a presentation to Sinéad and Laura to loud applause.