A view from St Killian’s College Carnlough

I decided to enter BTYSTE six years ago.  Some year 13 pupils had a project they had started when taking part in the First Lego League competition and I thought it was good enough to develop into a product, and wouldn’t require much more work to finish it to a good standard.  I knew the standard at BTYSTE was high so I made sure that the pupil’s application to enter was well written.

The pupils were keen to go to Dublin so they put a good effort into the project but it didn’t interfere with their normal AS classes.

The application was successful but we didn’t know what to expect in Dublin. The time and effort required for a good project could be compared to the time and effort you would put into a school team involved in sport over a two to three month period.

Now every year as soon as we come home from Dublin we start thinking up new projects for the following year.

Getting support is vital

I have great support from our own school and the headmaster was keen to promote BTYSTE as well.  There is great support from BT with a dedicated help line to for BTYSTE from N. Ireland and you can contact them for information or if you need any help.  The Dept. of Education is also very supportive and invites all entries from Northern Ireland to Stormont for a buffet lunch, photo opportunity and recognition of efforts.

The challenge when you know you are going to Dublin is to get the project finished to a good standard which will give the pupils confidence when talking to the judges.  We just used the first year when we got to Dublin to have a look around and see the standard of projects.  I was won over by the challenge to compete at this level and we have had a few teams who have won prizes since but winning isn’t the biggest benefit as the pupils enjoy memories and experiences which they can use in later life.  The biggest challenge every year for everyone is thinking of a suitable project which is going to qualify for the finals in Dublin as everything after that is a bonus.

Aoife Delargy, Kiera McKillop and Sinead McKeown from St Killian’s College Antrim and their project ‘Dyslexic Aid’

The experience is just superb

Once we got there I found it to be a really motivating experience for both the pupils and myself.  I now try to enter a number of teams every year to ensure we qualify.  The pupils get so much out of it and to have it on their cv/progress file will open many doors later for university and employment.  This has proved to be the case for a number of pupils who have taken part in BTYSTE as they have gone on to receive sponsorship for their University courses and higher apprentice awards with their whole way through university paid by the company. There is a real atmosphere of excitement about the RDS and I always see something new and interesting in the Technology section every year.  I then go back to school motivated and wanting to try something new which I have seen.  The whole event in Dublin is extremely slick and very well organised.  The judging is very straightforward with visits from at least 3 different judges who are all top academics from university and industry.  At least one judge will leave written comments in your project folder after they have taken it away to read and I have found their comments to always be positive.

Every year I have been at BTYSTE has been a great experience for the pupils and myself.  The pupils have a great time and they meet a lot of new friends and ones with similar interests.  We have travelled down to Dublin along with Ballyclare High School over the past number of years, staying in the same hotel and the company of the other teachers and pupils makes the whole experience so much better.  The school is keen to support our entries every year and with the accommodation grant, the cost to the school has been minimal.  The school has received great publicity through taking part in BTYSTE and as a result we have contacts with a lot of outside organisations including Universities, hospital consultants, and industry leaders. Some of our past pupils even come back to offer help and guidance with projects.

David Hughes, Director of Curriculum Qualification and Standards Department of Education Northern Ireland, students Anna Ewings, Meabh Mc Ilwaine from St. Killians College Antrim with their project ‘ Virtual Music Maker’ and Peter Morris BT Ireland

Just do it!

There are very few courses being provided by the Dept. of Education at present showcasing new developments in Technology or Education so I always look forward to seeing something new and innovative at BTYSTE.

I would definitely encourage any school to take part – it is hard work – but the rewards for both teachers and pupils are well
worth it.

Sean Connolly
Head of Technology
St Killian’s College, Carnlough

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