Wednesday, 19 May 2021: Students from Arles National School, Co. Laois have been awarded the STEPS Young Engineers Award today for their ‘Smart Windmill’ project which aims to help livestock farmers harness clean wind energy to heat water and to make their daily work easier.

The ‘Windtastic Windmills’ team, made up of Rosie Rogers, Patrick O’Neill, Beckie Kennedy, Rían Murphy and Grace Kelly from third- and fourth-class at Arles National School, came up with their winning project idea having noticed how much hard work their parents and local farmers have to do on livestock farms. The team set about developing a ‘Smart Windmill’ to heat water using green energy to help give farmers quick access to hot water to generate heat for heat mats, needed by new-born piglets, and for sterilisation of milking machines and bulk tanks. By creating an efficient and sustainable hot water system, the students said that the project “will give farmers more free time to sleep and spend with their families.”

The Arles NS students faced stiff competition from 169 schools from across Ireland who submitted over 600 projects to this year’s STEPS Young Engineers Award, which is coordinated by Engineers Ireland's STEPS programme - funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Education and Skills and industry leaders ARUP, ESB, Intel and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).

The nationwide primary school competition encourages third- and fourth-class pupils and their teachers to explore the world of engineering by developing an engineering project that would help to improve their local community. Now in its third year, students at Arles NS have now won the STEPS Young Engineers Award for the second year running, with last year’s students from Ms Holohan’s class developing an accessible and inclusive playground, powered by kid energy.

In addition to the winning team, students from Kilcoe National School, Skibbereen, Co. Cork were announced as runners-up in the competition, with Annyalla NS, Monaghan; Rath NS Baltimore, Cork; Gaelscoil na gCeithre Máistrí, Donegal; and Scoil Mhuire Lacken, Cavan achieving highly commended status for their innovative designs which ranged from a boat to clean rivers, to sound systems to prevent whales getting beached and a scooter safety system.

Each project team was recognised today at a virtual awards ceremony on Engineers Ireland’s website and YouTube Channel, which also included an Engineering Spectacular show by Mark Langtry, Head of Science and Sport at Explorium.

Also recognised at today’s virtual awards ceremony was Aidan Kenny, aged two and a half years, from Creagh, Ballinasloe, County Roscommon. Aidan, who is facing a difficult illness at this time, was honoured with an individual STEPS Young Engineers Award in recognition of his curious mind and bravery.

Caroline Spillane, Director General of Engineers Ireland, commented: “There was a high calibre of entries submitted by third- and fourth-class pupils to this year’s STEPS Young Engineers Award and we were so pleased to see such a high level of creative and innovative projects. It is my hope that each of the students who participated in this year’s STEPS Young Engineers Award thoroughly enjoyed this experience. I hope they will be encouraged to continue their exploration of the exciting world of engineering into the future and explore the limitless opportunities a career in the engineering sector can offer.” Ms Spillane also extended a warm “congratulations to Aidan Kenny and his family,” on his achievement today of an individual STEPS Young Engineers Award.

Additionally, Ms Spillane praised each of the volunteer engineers who visited schools virtually to assist students with their projects: “At Engineers Ireland, our volunteers are the lifeblood of our organisation and we are incredibly grateful to our volunteer engineers who visited schools to help students with their projects. I would also like to pay tribute to our volunteers from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Intel, Tandem and Jacobs Engineering who assisted with the judging process.”

Margie McCarthy, Head of Education & Public Engagement at Science Foundation Ireland, commented: “I would like to congratulate all the third and fourth-class pupils, teachers and volunteers who participated in this year’s STEPS Young Engineers Award competition, which is proudly supported by Science Foundation Ireland. Today’s primary school students will soon become tomorrow’s innovative leaders, creative thinkers, and problem solvers.  We are proud to support this award as it strives to empower students to create solutions for their local community by exploring STEM subjects and using their creative and critical thinking skills.”

For more information and to get involved in the STEPS Young Engineers Award, click here.