Third- and fourth-class students from Clooney National School, Clooney, Co Clare, have been crowned this year’s national winners of Engineers Ireland’s STEPS Young Engineers Award for their ash antibiotic invention.

L-R: Jane Whelan, Patrick Prior, Maggie O’Neill, David Purcell, chair of Engineers Ireland’s Thomond Region, Ciara Grogan, Clare County Camogie player and former Clooney NS pupil, Kate Hassett and Tiernan O’Neill.

Developed by the Clooney Crackers – with a team comprised of Tiernan, Jane, Patrick, Maggie and Kate – the Ash Antibiotic invention is a prototype robot which aims to detect and cure Ash dieback disease.

The innovative project was developed to support and foster local wildlife in Clare and to support hurling manufacturing in the county. The students created a spherical robot, made out of cardboard and paper mâché, and a working motor to demonstrate the possibilities of their invention and how a robot could travel to an infected tree and inject a liquid medicine to help cure the disease.

Having developed a prototype for their project, the winning student team said: “Ash trees have been part of our history for thousands of years. They are one of the seven sacred trees of ancient Ireland and are one of the most common native trees in Ireland.

"We believe that our invention could help to prevent ash dieback disease which is very prevalent in our community. By protecting trees from this disease, we can not only help the animals that live in the trees, but also support our hurling community, so that hurleys can be manufactured from local wood.”

Clooney National School class teacher, Sinéad Lynch said: “The STEPS Young Engineers Award was a fantastic opportunity for the children to engage with their local environment and become invested in their community.

Collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking skills

"It allowed the children to appreciate the real-world application of subjects such as maths and science and fostered 21st century skills such as collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking skills. All of the children who participated thoroughly enjoyed the process.”

Clooney National School students faced stiff competition from 116 other class groups from across Ireland who submitted almost 600 projects to this year’s STEPS Young Engineers Award, which is co-ordinated by Engineers Ireland's STEPS programme – funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and industry leaders Arup, the EPA, ESB, Intel and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII). 

Now in its fifth year, 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.

In addition to the winning team, students from St Oliver’s National School, Drogheda, Co Louth were announced as runners-up in the competition, with pupils from Scoil Eoin, Innishannon, Co Cork, St Andrew’s National School, Malahide, Dublin, Coolick National School, Killarney, Co Kerry Anabla National School, Killarney, Co Kerry, Scoil San Treasa, Mount Merrion, Dublin, and St Joseph’s National School, Woodford, Co Galway receiving highly commended status for their innovative designs.

Each project team was recognised today at a virtual awards ceremony on Engineers Ireland’s website and YouTube Channel. eFlow are kind supporters of all prizes for winners of the STEPS Young Engineers Award 2022/2023 programme.

Damien Owens, director general of Engineers Ireland, said: “I would like to congratulate all of the third and fourth-class pupils, teachers and volunteers who participated in this year’s STEPS Young Engineers Award.

Significant focus on sustainability

"We were so pleased to see such engineering innovation and creativity in the projects entered into this year’s competition. There was also a significant focus on sustainability and creating engineering solutions to protect and enhance our environment and local communities.

"I hope that each student who participated in the STEPS Young Engineers Award will be encouraged to continue their exploration of the exciting world of engineering into the future.”

Additionally, he applauded each of the volunteer engineers who visited schools as part of the programme: “We are incredibly grateful to our volunteer engineers who visited schools across Ireland to listen to the student’s engineering project presentations and to tell the class about their lives as an engineer. I would also like to pay tribute to our volunteers from Arup, the EPA, ESB, Intel, Kildare County Council and TII and who assisted with the judging process.”

For more information and to get involved in the STEPS Young Engineers Award, visit: