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This 17-year-old student has won this year's BT Young Scientists top award

Gregory Tarr won for his project entitled “Towards detecting state-of-the-art deepfakes”.

Gregory Tarr
Gregory Tarr

THE WINNERS OF this year’s BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition have been announced.

Gregory Tarr, aged 17, a sixth year student from Bandon Grammar School in Co Cork has won the top prize for his project entitled “Towards detecting state-of-the-art deepfakes”.

Deepfakes are videos or images in which a person’s face or body has been digitally altered so that they appear to be someone else. They are often used to spread false information.

Gregory presented his project in the senior age group of the technology category.

The announcement was made at the first ever virtual BTYSTE awards ceremony streamed live from the Mansion House.

Gregory’s project uses a sophisticated artificial intelligence software program that can efficiently detect deepfake media with state-of-the-art accuracy.

The software, which is over 150,000 lines of code, made significant improvements on speed and efficiency when compared to the current best model without sacrificing its ability to accurately detect the fake.

This tool could potentially be deployed at scale to filter out deepfake media making the internet a safer place.

This was Gregory’s fifth time competing at BTYSTE having competed on four other occasions in the RDS.

“The winner this year demonstrated an expertise in computer science which was well beyond his years,” Chair of the technology judging panel, Leonard Hobbs from Trinity College Dublin, said.

“The level of coding he deployed in developing the extremely complex program which detects fake videos, was guided by his deep understanding of the state-of-the-art of this leading edge technology,” Hobbs said.

“The judges have been continually impressed by Gregory’s projects at the BT Young Scientist competition over the past few years and they were delighted that he had progressed to winning the top award this year.”

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has this afternoon congratulated Gregory, saying his “innovation, creativity and ingenuity is a credit to us all”. 

“I really want to congratulate him on this great moment. His project will help make the internet a safer place,” Harris said. 

Gregory will represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, which is scheduled to go ahead in Salamanca Spain in September 2021.

His project can be viewed on the BTYSTE website here.

Other awards

The award for group winners went to Abby Mullins, Chloe Murphy and Megan Carroll from Moate Community School in Co Westmeath for their project “Wool-Savior of Our Sea”.

These young students developed a project which looked at developing a wool blanket which allows the timely and thorough removal of oil slicks following oil spills.

Their project was entered in the intermediate group of the Biological and Ecological category.

The individual runner-up award was presented to Jack Quirke from Colaiste Treasa in Co Cork for his project titled “Investigating possible vegetable oil toxicity using nematodes as environmental bioindicators”.

Jack competed at intermediate level in the Biological and Ecological category.

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The group runners-up award was presented to Isobel Hynes and Ava Hynes from Colaiste Treasa in Co Cork.

Ava and Isobel were awarded for their project titled “Use of the Health Belief Model to investigate elements informing young people’s attitudes towards Covid-19 and subsequent impact on response to restrictions and vaccine uptake”.

Minister Harris also paid tribute to “students and teachers across the country for their work and their efforts”. 

“2020 has not been an easy year for everyone but for young people it has been particularly hard,” he said. 

“In spite of the difficulties and in spite of all they have endured, they have shown imagination, determination, and your vision for a better future,” the Minister added. 

“They have proven themselves to be leaders and the next generation of scientists, entrepreneurs and leaders.” 

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