Opportunites for Irish Young People
Summary: The post I wish I could have read after participating in the BT Young Scientist during 4th year. I was eager to do stuff but didn't know what to invest me time into.
January 3, 2020
With the BT Young Scientist Exhibition (BT) around the corner, now feel likes the opportune time to write this post. I participated in BT three years ago, and had a great time. I'm not going to talk about all the benefits of BT or the experience apart from saying that posts about that have already been written (here and here) which I'd recommend reading.
Instead this post is about a shortcoming I've noticed with BT and more generally with competitions for young people. BT is great at getting you started with a project, however it provides limited to no support after January. Now, this isn't neccessarily something for BT to provide, but without it I fear lots of good projects lose momentum.
This is a shame, as these projects are being worked on by some of the most innovative and earnest young people in Ireland. BT has an opportunity to create lasting communities where participants are encouraged to further their projects or take advantage of other opportunities. In fairness to BT they do run the BT Business Bootcamp which could be an attempt at this. Although in my year's case at least, a community wasn't made.
Therefore this post is about two things
Listing all the opportunities & organisations I've found which might interest ambitious young people in Ireland
Start a conversation about how to build a community of excellence for young people and encourage young people to get involved in it.
If you've worked on a science project you should try maximise your returns (feedback, connections, money) by entering it in all of Ireland's Science fairs: BT, Scifest and Sentinus Young Innovators
- Scifest - They run multiple day-long regional fairs and then a day-long national fair. 1st and 2nd place winners from the National finals represent Ireland at Regeneron ISEF. While they say you can't enter if you won a prize at BT, this is with the same project. If you change your project enough (or just expand it) you can enter.
- Sentinus Young Innovators - This is Northern Ireland's version of the BT Young Scientist, however it's an all-island competition with lots of projects from the Republic. It's smaller and less of a show (it's only one day long) but it has great prizes including an all expenses paid trip to the United States to represent Northern Ireland at Regeneron ISEF.
You'll notice that both of these competitions send projects to Regeneron ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair). This is an absolutely incredible experience, which I might try write about later to give it justice.
There's a lot of BT projects which have potential commercial value. It that's yours some the following might be interesting
Student Entrepreneur Awards - I don't know much about this but I've heard it's a lot of fun
Patch Summer Accellerator - I'd highly recommend applying for this. It's a new(ish) program for Irish students where you work a project (commercial or not) for six weeks and listen to talks from Irish entrepreneurs and other interesting people (previous speakers have included James Wheldon, Des Traynor, Ray Nolan, etc). Previous projects which went through and are now businesses include CropSafe, Mirr, Papershop. It's run by Tom McCarthy and he's trying to create a community of ambitious young people through it.
Pionneer - This is a program I wish I knew about years ago but only found out about this summer through Patch. It's an online startup accelerator. You signup with a project and then ever week you submit a project update stating what you hoped to achieve, what you did achieve, and what your plans are for the week ahead. Everyone then gets 10 sets of 2 random updates and decides which is most impressive and provides feedback. This is great for two things:
- Makes you accountable to someone, even if it's a total stranger*
- Lets you see what other people are doing, what's working for them, what's not, etc
*They're not really strangers, as you can talk to the other participants on weekly video calls or on the forums
- Research Science Institute (RSI)- If your BT project was research orientated and you're really into science then you should consider applying for RSI. I don't really know how to best explain so I'll probably expand more in a later post. Briefly, it's a six-week free summer program held at MIT where you do a research project in a local lab (e.g. at MIT, Harvard, etc) while being mentored by a professor or postgraduate student. At the same time you're making friends with 100 of the smartest, most impressive and yet humble young people from across the world. if you're interested in applying to this and want to talk to someone about it, please do get in touch :)
I haven't done these myself but I either think they're cool (and will probably be applying myself) or have heard good things about them from other people
That's everything I could think of at the moment, but I'll come back and update this whenever I think of anything else. Do you know any other programs / opportunties? If so send me a tweet @r_bt_ and I'll add it to this list :)