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Wearable Smart Device for Dementia Patients wins HRB Special Award at the BTYSTE

The Health Research Board (HRB) was proud to again sponsor the HRB Special Award recognising excellence in health research at the 58th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE).

Winner of special HRB award at BTYSTE 2022

This year, the honour went to Dara Newsome, David Hughes and Conor Bradshaw (pictured here, left to right), all sixth-year students at Mercy Secondary School in Kerry, for their project Specs – A Wearable Smart Device for Dementia Patients.

Specs aims to alleviate the struggles of people with dementia and other cognitive disorders when they are unable to recognise those around them such as friends, family and carers, by indicating who is there. Lightweight and ergonomic, it uses an embedded artificial intelligence (AI) visual recognition system with either visual or auditory signals depending on user preference.

On the inspiration for Specs, co-creator Dara Newsome, says:

“Not unlike most people in Ireland today, we have seen the devastating impacts of dementia on family members, neighbours and members of our communities. We felt that with our interest in technology and science we could attempt to create a device to address this and hoped it might have even the smallest positive impact on someone in need. Thanks to the constant support of our teachers, families and researchers, we have been able to create what we hope will make this difference.”

Work on the project commenced in 2020, and Specs has been in development ever since via a continuous process of design, trial, feedback and refinement. “Once we created a major new feature or version,” says Newsome, “the device was trialled to the best of our ability during a pandemic and then refined and adapted using our new insights.”

The team’s efforts saw Specs winning national competitions and representing Ireland at international competitions such as the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) and the Global Youth Science and Technology Bowl (GYSTB). The most advanced version of the device to date was entered in this year’s BTYSTE, ultimately taking home the HRB award.

Congratulating the winners, HRB Chief Executive Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll said:

“Our mission at the Health Research Board is to support research that improves people's health, promotes evidence-informed care and creates solutions to societal challenges. The Specs project was an easy winner to select for our award because it epitomises this. All of us at the Health Research Board are excited to see how the creators’ careers progress, and are inspired by the passion, talent and innovation that is so evident so young.”

So, what next for these bright young things? Does a career in health research beckon? “Most definitely!” says Newsome. “Whether in the entrepreneurial or research field, we will be continuing to create innovations and products in the health sector.”