Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Public Transport Reviews: Bus Éireann

This is the third installment in a four-part series about my experiences of public transport in Ireland. Yesterday I reviewed the train, day before the Luas, today Bus Éireann and the next day Dublin Bus. I won't be reviewing the DART because I haven't been on it enough to make a fair judgement. Each mode of transport will be reviewed under six criteria: comfort, speed, reach, ease of use, facilities and cost for a total of 30 possible marks.

I don't use the bus much anymore, but I used to use it every time I went up to Dublin, and I took a lot of buses for work experience. So I know buses very well, probably on par with trains.


Buses are pretty mediocre on comfort. The seats are okay, a bit cramped, and it's nice that you're never in a backwards-facing seat (this can be disorientating on trains). Also, people aren't allowed stand and bus drivers will just turn people away from an oversubscribed bus, so it's less packed. But there's less space, no tables and less luxury than on a train. And the seats are less comfortable so it's hard to sleep. Also, since the bus goes on the road like any other car, the ride can be bumpy. It's pretty cosy though.

Rating: 3/5


Buses are slow, in my experience. Especially since they have to stop in traffic, while trains and the Luas don't. Around the same speed as trains, judging by how long it takes to get to Dublin, but the ride's not as smooth so it feels longer. 

Rating: 3/5


I'm being awfully negative about buses here, and that looks set to continue. Buses go all around the country, so they do reach far - but the devil's in the details. I find that a lot of the places buses stop just aren't useful for me, and I have to walk for ages to actually get to my destination. But in theory they do a lot, and they stop on lots of streets, so I'll give them a boost with a high rating here.  

Rating: 4/5


The bus is nothing special with facilities, but at least it has wifi, and some buses have toilets and luggage racks. No food (often food is actually forbidden, though this isn't enforced) provided, no tables - which combined with the bumpy ride makes it difficult to get any work done. Wavering between 2 and 3. 

Rating: 3/5

Ease of Use

The bus really falls down here, because it's just so ridiculously easy to miss your stop or miss the bus altogether. Trains pull into stations predictably, whereas buses just park along the place, or somewhere in the carpark of the station. Not useful. Bus Éireann buses don't tell you what the next stop is so you have to look out the window and desperately hope you recognise something. Why don't they just call out the next stop over the intercom and/or have it scrolling along a screen?

Because it's so easy to miss your stop, I often end up in the wrong place. I have a worse story with Dublin Bus that you'll see tomorrow, but for example I once ended up going to Dundalk (one hour journey) instead of Dublin (one hour journey the exact opposite way) while commuting to work experience at the Irish Times, because both routes are called the 100X. They have the same name! That's how I was 2-3 hours late for work at the Irish Times once and had to call them from the bus station.

Rating: 1/5


The bus is probably the worst out of all four options here for cost. I can't think of the exact figure, but it's definitely more expensive than the train (at least for the ticket I get, a child day return). It might be better with the time of day thing or for adults, and I'm sure a LeapCard helps. I can't actually think of any redeeming features of the cost but I don't want to give another one-star. It's just so expensive. More than three euro for a 20-minute journey, triple the price on the Luas. Just crazy. I'm sure it costs lots to run, yes, but compared to the other options it's just bad.

Rating: 1/5


I gave the train some extra points for sentimental value yesterday, and I'll give the bus a couple just for memories on it. First date, first CTYI reunion, etc. 2 additional points.

3 + 3 + 4 + 3 + 1 + 1 + 2 = 17/30 = 56/67 = C3

Monday, 29 June 2015

Public Transport Reviews: Intercity Rail

This is the second installment in a four-part series about my experiences of public transport in Ireland. Yesterday I reviewed the Luas, today the train (intercity rail), tomorrow Bus Éireann and the next day Dublin Bus. I won't be reviewing the DART because I haven't been on it enough to make a fair judgement. Each mode of transport will be reviewed under six criteria: comfort, speed, reach, ease of use, facilities and cost for a total of 30 possible marks.

I use the train a lot. This week, I took 8 intercity trains. Ever since I started working on my research in Trinity, I've spent at least 2 hours a week on intercity trains, and usually more. So it's the form of public transport I'm most familiar with, and thus likely to be my most reliable review. 


I think trains are the most comfortable out of all the public transport options. The seats are soft and roomy enough (for someone my size, anyway), and there are handy tables in groups of four facing seats if you want to get some work done or have a chat with some friends. The journey is very smooth too. One gripe is the large penalty for putting your feat on the seats - doing that is very comfortable, and wouldn't do that much damage to the seats. Also, in the Dublin stops the train is often too crowded to get a seat, which is unpleasant.

Miscellaneous, but there are really good views out the train window on my usual route, since it's almost all coastal.


Comfort: 4/5


The train is generally a pretty slow mode of transport, and artificially so. It takes an hour to get to Dublin normally, but only about 34 minutes on the express. But the express trains are quite rare, and I don't remember ever landing on one without specifically planning it. You can drive to Dublin in about 75% of the time, assuming light or no traffic.

Speed: 3/5


Let's be real here: train stations are in the middle of nowhere. There's only one station in most towns (loads in Dublin, but that's Dublin) so they're unlikely to be near your specific location. Usually I have a ten- to twenty-minute walk to my destination after getting the train. Their reach is obviously longer and further than the Luas, DART and Dublin Bus, but not as detailed.

Reach: 3/5

Ease of Use

The train loses out here in comparison to DART because missing your train or your stop is a big problem and can be catastrophic. Trains between Drogheda and Dublin (my route) usually go once an hour, so if I miss one by a couple of minutes I'll be late for my meeting if I wait for the next one. There have been tears. Stops are further apart too, so missing your stop is a big deal. Tickets make little sense - at my station, tickets cost about a third more if you buy them before half nine, and my ticket always stops working on the return journey so I just wave it at the security guard. 

Ease of Use: 2/5


Trains are relatively luxurious, so they score highly on facilities. Wifi, luggage racks, desks to work on are standard. Some trains also have plugs and food carts, which make me feel like I'm in Harry Potter. Not much to it, really - trains are great here. Quality.

Facilities: 5/5


Train cost is great if you can get a child ticket, €7 for a return trip to Dublin without even having a leapcard. But an adult ticket often costs literally double what the child ticket does, which is crazy. For 2 weeks in July, people 18 and under can travel free with a LeapCard, which I think is awesome. I really need to get a LeapCard. So I'm conflicted here. Better than bus, but worse than Luas. 

Cost: 3/5


When I totted this up originally the train got 20/30, but I have too high a sentimental attachment to it to allow that, so I'm bumping it up five points for the enjoyability of train rides. Bam. I'm God of this blog. 

25/30 = 83.33% = B1

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Public Transport Reviews: the Luas

This begins a mini-series about public transport, since I've spent almost every day in the past few weeks commuting. I'm going to review the Luas today, the train tomorrow, intercity bus the day after and Dublin bus the day after that under six criteria: comfort, speed, reach, facilities, ease of use and cost. Each criterion holds a maximum of five points, so at the end I can add them all up and compare the public transport options with marks out of thirty. 



The Luas has a mixture of seats and standing room with rails. You can usually get a seat at some point in your journey, and while they're not the most comfortable there's no real problem. There's lots of priority seating for people with disabilities (which people sometimes abuse). Also, the Luas usually travels pretty smoothly at any speed thanks to its rails. 

Verdict: 3/5


I rarely notice the Luas travelling fast, but it gets me places quickly so I can't complain on this front. It doesn't have to keep stopping for traffic like a bus does, but obviously it does have to stop to drop people off. Overall, I'd say the Luas is very decent for speed (good, since Luas means speed) so if you're worried about being late I'd take the Luas. 

Verdict: 4/5


The Luas is only designed to run in Dublin, which is obviously a big limitation but one I think can be excused since that's its purpose. I think the Luas has very good reach within Dublin, in that there are Luas stops all over the place, not just in the most popular destinations. And Luas stops are located beside the street, unlike train stations. I need a Luas to get to St. James' Hospital for my research, and it's very convenient to just get the Luas from Connolly. No other service goes there, to my knowledge. 

Verdict: 4/5


The Luas is severely lacking in facilities, especially the most important: wifi. Everything else has wifi, why can't it? I don't think it has toilets either, and there's no food on board (there is on some Enterprise trains). Probably because of the short journeys. Seriously, though - get wifi. 

Verdict: 2/5

Ease of Use 

My favourite thing about the Luas is how easy it is to use, it's totally stress-free. If you miss your Luas, just wait at the stop and there'll be another one in a couple of minutes. You can't miss your stop, because every stop is announced twice to give you plenty of time and there are clear signs at each stop.  I love this because it means I don't have to constantly check out the window to see where I am. 

Verdict: 5/5


I don't have a Leap Card (I should do that ASAP), but the Luas is still very cheap - I can get a 20 minute journey return for €1.70. Cheaper than the dart, I think, and definitely better value than intercity train tickets.  I'm sure it could be a bit cheaper though. My high rating takes leap card holders into account. 

Verdict: 5/5

Overall verdict: 23/30 : 76.67% : B2

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Dublin Pride

Hello! So, today I went into Dublin for a reunion with my CTYI friends and ended up going to Dublin Pride for the first time. It was great fun. This post has a ton of photos so I won't write much. 

So, Jerry was to meet me at the train station an hour before the reunion to hang out for a bit, but he was late so I went to my old, pre-Christmas research-lunch haunt - the Centra Westmoreland Row café. We chatted on the way up to Stephen's Green to meet people, 'twas nice. I have a lovely photo of us but sadly he won't let me put it up so you'll have to make do with your imagination. 

We met up with lots of people, including Thomas and Gabi, at the arch. It's been ages since I've seen them, so that was great. John Joe, Steven, Fez (other Thomas) and Kat were there too. It feels like years since I've seen Kat, and months since Steven. 

How cute are we? Very.

Anyway, soon enough we headed to O' Connell Street for the pride parade. Unfortunately, John Joe and I lost everyone else and couldn't contact them, so we wandered up and down the parade for a while before giving in and joining it. Turns out they saw us and joined the parade (carrying the flag) too.

That was fun. We walked for ages all the way to Merrion Square carrying the flag. At one point some CTYI friends and I were carrying the whole back of the flag, very special. There was a great atmosphere. It was so exciting when we saw people, especially Ogden whose enthusiasm is contagious. 

There was a woman at the side handing out anti-gay leaflets and when she went to give one to me I leaned at her, slowly swept my arms out and sang "Gaaaaaaaaaaay" then walked on. Very satisfying.

I'm really proud of having taken that photo, it's great quality. Also, this was from earlier today but I love it:

The parade ended in Merrion Square where there was a festival vibe going on. We chilled for a while, met a lot of new people, took selfies, I got carried around (ily Jerry), listened to music, and danced. 

Sean said hi (well, called me a faggot, same thing right?) but really the big surprise was seeing him there. 

Kat and I danced a ton and were altogether very gay, it was lovely getting to know her. Here's me with Scott, whom Kat convinced to do a very interesting dance move.

Also saw this fabulous friend, and another of whom I sadly don't have a photo but who had the most amazing and intricate Edwardian dress ordered from Japan.

We eventually left, singing and dancing the whole way down the road, and went to Burger King as is the norm at CTYI reunions. It was a very joyful time, dancing with John Joe and linking with Jerry and Gabi. Jerry bought me chips as a surprise at Burger King because he's great.

After Burger King, we all gradually split up. John Joe, being the darling he is, walked me to Tara Street Station and waited with me for the train. Shoutout to John Joe for being great.

Shoutout also to the lovely Micaiah, who appeared very briefly at the end. 

On the train home, I had a nice chat to this random seventeen-year-old guy also on his way home from Pride. I was reading The Devil Wears Prada and we very enthusiastically discussed it. I love friendly people on public transport. 

So yeah - my first Pride was a great experience, but then Reunions always are. I'm definitely missing out on details but in my defence I'm tired. Anyway, enjoy.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Summer Exam Results

It's been an exciting and tiring week, so in this post I'm just going to discuss the exam results I got in my school end-of-year report. Gotta be boring sometimes. I might mention teacher comments but I won't name names in case people somehow get offended. 


This report was a lot better than February's. In February I got straight Bs (and a C in PE). Then there was a parent-teacher meeting where the teachers knew me alarmingly well and had copped that I was just getting by on natural talent instead of studying. So I studied a good bit from then on, but only for the subjects I love (Physics and Chemistry) and a bit for one I abhor but must do (History). Here are the results. I'll do them in descending order. 

Physics: A1

I was delighted with this result, but to be fair I was expecting it since I answered every single question on the paper, when you're only supposed to answer about half of them. I love the class. The teacher's comments, apart from saying that I'm lovely to have in the class (cheers), said that my frequent absences (for research) are affecting my work. I got an A1! Come on, give credit. I'm also quite offended that I only got a "Good" in the Behaviour column, as opposed to "Excellent" or "Very Good". What exactly did I do? Surely you can't call going on question tangents bad behaviour. 

Chemistry: A1

Same with Physics above, I answered all the questions except one very tiny one about the anion tests, which I hate and find impossible to keep straight in my head. Again, love the class and subject. Very glad to have the A1. Excellent Behaviour and Effort, woot. 

History: A2 (86%)

Wow, the studying trend really is showing. I thought I'd done pretty well in History, so the A is nice. I do need to work on the research project, and I'd like to push it up to an A1. Then again, that would require paying attention in History, which is soul-destroying.

English: A2 (85%)

We didn't actually have an English exam, so this was based on the creative writing thing we had to turn in as what should've been a small portion of the mark, plus maybe some work throughout the year. This was a bummer because I do well in exams and I hadn't really tried hard on much of the coursework, so I'm confident I can do better than this in a real exam. Then again, the awful thing about subjects like English and History is the subjectivity of the marking. Generic but positive teacher comment.

Irish: B1 (84%)

Just 1% away from the A! I only studied for this on the morning before, so if I improve my study habits for 6th Year I can probably pull off an A. But that's a big if. Nice teacher comment but I feel like he doesn't want me to miss any more class for research.

Maths: B1 (80%)

Just scraped the B+ but I'm really delighted, I had been bracing myself for a D or something. I felt like the exam had gone really badly (I couldn't get the clarity I usually have) and in fairness it's HL Maths. Teacher comment says "An excellent result, well done", and I really appreciate it. I have to pull off the HL Maths A1 in my actual LC, but this is pretty good for fifth year. Very encouraging, I like it.


This isn't a real subject but I guess you get graded for effort. This went up from a C in February, and I'm happy with the B in PE. 

French: B2

This is my lowest grade, but I think I have an excuse in that I did large portions of it in the car on the way home and in my bedroom rather than in a quiet exam hall, since that's the day a teacher in the school died. Also, I didn't do French homework that whole year. I'm amazed she gave me good teacher comments. I do feel kinda bad about it, but she gives homework in such a rapid stream that my brain just shuts off after the first thing in protest. 


This is a nice school report. It's funny to think how devastated I would've been with it in first year, when I got 10 A1s and 2 A2s and was so upset about the A2s. Since other people seem to think about points all the time, it adds up to 575 points. 

Which is definitely a good start. And hopefully it'll make teachers give me a bit of leeway when I leave class to do things that are important for my future. 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Interview with Harry McCann Part 2,

Yo. This is the second half of my interview with Harry McCann, founder of the Digital Youth Council. All views expressed are our own, and you can find the first half of the interview here.

What kind of challenges and difficulties have you had with the Digital Youth Council over the past year?

Time, it's a lot of time and effort and work, especially everyone who's played a really big part in [...] setting it up. It's a big thing to try and run an organisation completely youth-led - finding funding, finding partners, finding backers, finding advisory board members [ed note: just today, Harry announced that Margaret Burgraff, global Intel VP, will join the DYC advisory board for next year], spaces for meetings. Trust me, the list goes on. And it's - it's tough doing that sometimes, it's hard finding time [...] I was up 'til half one last night and I'm still doing stuff.

You could have a time of radio silence, like "don't contact me at this time"

No, I don't, and that's the funny thing - I'm very, very weird in a way that most people are 9 - 5, I am 8 o' clock or even sometimes 7 o' clock if I'm on a bus, to 9 or 10 o' clock or 11 o' clock at night, or even on a Saturday or Sunday. And I think it's because, I don't think students or young people have a time of day, I get emails from students [...] I was messaging people on Facebook last night at 12 o' clock [...] There's no time of day, there's no 9 to 5. Which is good in a way, because it allows you to get things done, but it's an awful lot of work as I said. You have to commit a lot of time. Travelling is huge as well ...

And what have been the highlights of the past year, do you think?

Highlights of the last year ... that's a tough one. Lord David Putnam was very cool to me. Met Lord David Putnam in the Shelbourne hotel which is obviously a very nice, nice hotel, pleasure meeting him and speaking to him, and pleasure meeting the Taoiseach, it was great [...] Going to Google, going to Twitter, going to Facebook. [From the] Digital Youth Council perspective, would have to be, this year in particular I'm very impressed - we said it earlier in the day, for InspireFest, and somebody we work closely with is Silicon Republic [...] The highlight would have to be that we did get a 50/50 gender ratio this year.

What was it last year?

It was 60/40 or 70/30 [...] It was a big achievement because there's such a big push for it, and the thing is we're very keen on equal opportunity. We're not for guys, we're not for girls, we're equal opportunity for everybody. Getting Twitter involved was a big thing as well, it was good to get one of the big tech companies behind us ... It was a very enjoyable experience getting to go to Twitter, getting to go to all these places. It was a very unforgettable experience. I guarantee if you ask anybody on the whole council, the best thing about it would have to be the places, the events and things like that. The Web Summit, the BT Young Scientist. It's not a celebrity lifestyle, but it's the closest thing that most of us will get to it. And then also watching Émer, Sophie and Ciara win every award, every award under the sun. Just sitting there like "Awh yeah, I know them." Or Sky News, "Ah yeah", CNN "Yep", we get the point, you won it. They win everything.

I know!

That is really good though in fairness, it's good to see the Council - and Ireland - being well-represented worldwide, not just in Ireland. But yeah, it was really good fun.

When you're in schools, does the Digital Youth Council see a difference between kid boys and girls in what they're interested in? Is it all the same, or is there a point where that starts changing?

Yeah, younger kids - I think a lot of people are reared in a way that the difference between a little boy and a girl, and I think it's probably a problem, is guys are Legos and army men and all that rubbish, and girls are Barbie dolls and all that rubbish. Boys pick blue and girls are pink and all that rubbish. But I think at primary school their interest in STEM, it's something everyone can share, I don't think it's a guy or girl thing, there's definitely opportunity for people to be involved, which is the great thing about STEM - even when you look at professional sports and such, football, if you look at men's soccer versus women's soccer --

It's kind of a disgrace how --

Yeah! It's underappreciated, they probably don't even earn half as much. Although in STEM they talk about the unequal opportunities, there still [are] enough equal opportunities out there that it has potential. It can change and one day it definitely has the ability to be equal opportunity. Unlike soccer, because soccer will take a long time or all these sports will. But they young people don't even see this problem, they don't even recognize that oh this girl can't do this or this guy can't do that or whatever. 

The older ages - as you go to secondary school, everyone's still equal. It is, I see it in STEM all the time, even the BT Young Scientist, you look at it - everyone's equal, everyone has an equal ability, they understand that there's obviously inequality in the area of STEM, but they completely ignore that so there's definitely - it's quite an equal gender ratio, everyone appreciates everyone ... I think it's a positive thing as well, especially compared to soccer. Women's sport doesn't get anywhere near as much publicity as men's does, even in Ireland or anywhere in the world. So it does have potential to be a really, really special thing, STEM does. 

[We chatted a bit here, I'll spare you.]

What exciting things does the Digital Youth Council have coming up in the next while?

That's still to be decided. TBC - to be confirmed. The case is we elected a new Council in, so in August the new Council will meet, and what'll happen is they'll decide what happens from there. It's not a person decision, it's a group decision. Personally, I'll be pushing for more opportunities for young people - things like internships, opportunities in STEM companies. Honestly the thing is, there are a lot of things that can be changed in STEM. I think the gender ratio was one we looked at this year, we done that --


Well not even done, there's still work on that but from our perspective we've done our part, and we'll still push for it to be done in other places. Young people giving young people a voice, we've done our Have Your Say app, our Have Your Say website where you can just log on and give your opinion on anything at all, that's something we tried to work on and we done. There's different things we achieved this year ... Nothing is impossible - we have the companies, we have the people, we have the advisors. That's from a business perspective. From the management end of the Digital Youth Council, there'll be some really cool new advisors coming in, like really, really cool. It'll be really good to see those people come in, and hopefully it'll make sure that the council does some really cool things. But you'll have to wait and see. 

OK, I'll wait. How does Ireland compare to other countries for STEM, teenagers especially?

So yeah, among young people especially it's by far the best - one of the best if not the best. Personally, I might have a slight bias - I run a digital youth council and I'm an Irish teenager. But yeah, I attended the BT Young Scientist, I attended the Eircom Junior Spider, I didn't go to the Coolest Projects this year but I went to every single possible event for young people in STEM and  there's definitely a lot of potential there... At the BT Young Scientist, every single idea there could've won it easily. I spoke to some people from BT and they said it was unpredictable who could've won it this year and a great project won it. We do have a really large pool of talent - you can see with the girls who've done really well not just in Ireland but on the international stage. They're not the only ones, there's loads of people. We win the EU Young Scientist year in, year out.

They must be sick of us.

Like, it's no longer the EU Young Scientist, it's basically just Ireland's Young Scientist -

- Again.

Yeah, whoever won the BT Young Scientist is pretty well in-there. But we do compare with - definitely, we're in the top two or three. I don't even know who could be against us, I'm just saying that in case I'm wrong. The States I'm sure would probably give us a run for our money, the UK don't, I can definitely say that. We definitely have more talent, I'd say that more than happily. But the US probably do, considering their size they're bound to have the same amount as us. 

Okay! Thank you very much.

Coolio boolio. 

There was definitely a lot of information in that interview! Make sure to check out Harry and I on Twitter @TheHarryMcC and @frizzyroselle respectively. Thanks again to Harry for doing the interview, and InspireFest 2015 for providing the swanky VIP venue.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Intellectual Ventures Dublin HQ Mentoring Day

So, today was amazing. As part of the Intellectual Ventures prize I won at BTYSTE this year, I got a day of mentoring in Intellectual Ventures' Dublin HQ and worked out details of my Seattle trip next month. I had a wonderful time. Let's get down to it.

So, Intellectual Ventures (henceforth IV - I use a lot of acronyms, as you may know) kindly arranged our transport to their HQ, which was unexpected. The return journey alone in the taxi cost €94 so I'm very impressed they paid both ways, and lots more besides. 

We arrived coming up to ten, went through a revolving door (I tottered a little as this was one of the first times I'd worn heels) and were shown in by Avril, the lovely receptionist. We went into this beautiful meeting room called Monaco and met Karen. It was great to put a face to the email address, and of course it's much easier to make a connection in person. Karen is Operations Analyst at the Dublin branch of Intellectual Ventures, Invention Investment Ireland and I'm quite amazed by how much time she spends co-ordinating me, the BTYS winner. I appreciate it! 

She showed me a quick video on what IV does and asked me what I know about the company. It was then that I realised (and I would be reminded of this often throughout the day) that I really hadn't done my homework, and could definitely have been better prepared for the mentoring day. But hey, that's just me, and they pulled off a great day anyway. 

We then started going through details of the trip and myself and my guardian (who wishes not to be named) were thoroughly amazed. We really underestimated how great this trip is. Karen managed to get us into a really good hotel where we'll each have a queen-size bed, free food, free town car, free spa, free flights, beautiful hotel. Speaking of flights, this was also really exciting. Because we're flying business class, we get access to all this cool stuff like VIP lounges, free food and drinks both on the lounge and in the plane, and fast-tracking through the airport. It's so cool. We also get private little pods on the plane. I've never been in that sort of luxury before.

I was told this trip would be all-expenses-paid, but I never imagined this. Karen said we could easily go over and get on fine without spending a penny.

While I'm there, I'll be touring their labs, meeting the company president and some other cool people and touring the founder's office. We watched a video about their labs and they're really cool. IV has four different branches, and if I recall correctly they're the patent buying, labs, licensing and philanthropy. They have one of almost any scientific equipment you could imagine and keep all the extra stuff in a warehouse, so that every few weeks the lab's purpose can completely transform from, say, biotechnology to semiconductor engineering. We also saw a little about some of the projects they have going on, like mosquito zappers.

I was happy about the Seattle trip before today, but now I'm exceedingly excited. I need a stronger word for excited. I also found out that most IV employees visit Seattle a lot.

Another reason I'm excited is that I might have the opportunity to visit and speak to people from some really cool companies in Seattle. It's always worth asking anyway, am I right?

Anyway, then a ton of visitors came in one at a time for the rest of the day. I have notes on most of them, but I really appreciate all of you taking the time to come in, I loved hearing from you. We just had fairly informal chats across the table in the meeting room, they weren't talks, per se. All of them came in and shook my hand (I think I have a pretty good, firm handshake), and many congratulated me.

Declan Carew

I'm afraid I only started taking notes after Declan Carew, Portfolio Director, spoke to me. He explained how they go about choosing markets to invest in, which sounded pretty interesting.

Steve Winter

Steve Winter came in next, who's the Managing Director. I really enjoyed talking to him, although we definitely went off on tangents about American universities and scenic driving routes in Seattle. He advised me to go to college in America or Europe, and responded to my cost objection by saying that I should be able to get a scholarship "with your academic record". So that was nice to hear. I don't like the sound of a €100 application fee though, that's crazy. I think I might look into American universities for my Masters or PhD - if I want to do undergrad there, I'll have to take the SAT soon. The Max Planck etc. are also great (and free!) but I'd rather be in an English-speaking country.

Steve told me about IV's four branches and their global inventor network, gave me some information on patents and - my favourite - some details of IV's innovations, including one for using a different kind of uranium for nuclear power. He told us about Boeing in Seattle, which apparently has 700 acres under one roof in their 747 factory. He said Bellevue and Seattle are actually quite like Ireland. He was very enthusiastic altogether and it was lovely and relaxing talking to him. 


It was lunchtime then, and all I have in my notes for this is "Bainbridge Island" and "Bizworld primary", so I must have been distracted by the food. Can you blame me? Look at it!

Mary Lou Nolan, Commercial Director Europe

I was sent out after lunch while the adults talked (harrumph, bah humbug, etc.) so I sat down on the nice carpet outside the room and read a book. Before long, Mary Lou rescued me and took me to her office to have a chat. And that's what it was, we just got to know each other. She had given a talk at Bootcamp but that wasn't as good because it was quite impersonal, so this was lovely. She said today was an opportunity for everyone to find out about me as a person, which is good because I talked a ton about myself (and was promptly embarrassed about it). We talked about the Leaving Cert and the horrors of History and Irish, and especially Irish history (see what I did there?)

We also talked about sexism in business and science and whether gender quotas are a good idea. I hate gender quotas, as a regular blog reader will know, but agree with Mary Lou's opinion that opportunities should be 50/50 but no jobs should actually be allocated based on gender. Meritocracy, that's the way to go. 

We talked about more, but I can't for the life of me remember what it is. She said have fun in Seattle. Trust me, I will.

She also said something lovely, that I was carrying myself really well there. She also said she doesn't think I'm a nerd, since I do actually get very engaged in conversations and I'm not shy. We have differing definitions of a nerd - I'm proud to be the type of person who's into science and reading, and that's how I define it. 

Mike Tierney, Senior Engineering Director

Mike Tierney then came in, and I loved talking to him. He's Senior Engineering Director at IV, but what interested me most (sorry, IV) is that he worked at NASA for ten years as an engineer, in the Goddard Space Centre. How cool is that? He worked on shuttle parts. It was such an interesting conversation (well, probably not for him), covering multi-spectral imaging, agronomists, lasers, measuring glaciers, chaos theory and n-body problems, the Deep Space Climate Observatory, the L1 point one million miles from Earth where the gravitational forces from the Sun and the Earth on a satellite at the point are equal, Myers-Briggs, asteroid mining, Elon Musk and more. So much geeking out. 

At one point he even drew a diagram on the whiteboard (this was to demonstrate the L1 point). It was pretty simple since we get that sort of question all the time in Physics class, but I loved it. He also talked about the inaccuracies of movies about space, saying that every move during a spacewalk is carefully choreographed and tested in special underwater centers. I think he said he was an electronics and optics engineer - hope I got that right. He also gave me his card and said feel free to email him, as a lot of the people I met did. I'm definitely going to take him up on that at some point, so I hope he's prepared. I didn't ask many questions today since I'm quite frazzled from Sentinus, but I'll almost certainly have more later. 

I can't believe I didn't take a photo of the diagram, but I'll just draw a replica now. 

Mathan Ganesan

A former NASA engineer is a hard act to follow, but Mathan was still great. He has a background in micro-electronics and software engineering, and said something about neural networks. He was headhunted as an investment banker from college and did that for two years, then created (and successfully sold) a signal processing startup to fit more memory on chips. He explained things nicely and has an awesome accent (sounds posh-British, but I can't be sure). He advised me to always look for real issues when inventing, and said "we need more people like you", which was nice. I got a card from him too. 

Naoise Gaffney, Senior Patent Attorney

At the risk of repeating myself, Naoise was awesome. I felt familiar with him straight away because he gets animated about topics and when he does he looks exactly like my CTYI mentor Ogden, only without the afro. It was great hanging out with a nerd. Fittingly, he said he and his colleagues are "geeks that pretend to be lawyers rather than lawyers that pretend to be geeks". He said he wanted to be able to combine different subject areas of science, and the options he could think of for that were journalism and law. Since he can't write (he says), and all you need for law is to "be pedantic", he went into patent law. He said patent lawyers are like translators, taking information from scientific or technical language into legal language, so that the idea itself rather than just one specific implementation of it can be protected.

He also used a ton of strange metaphors, it was funny. He compared being a patent attorney to juggling plates on a cane since you have loads of things on the go and you just pay attention to which plate is wobbling when and attend to that, i.e. send a letter to the patent office to continue the negotiation.

He said there are three usual routes for an inventor: academia, joining a big company, and creating a startup, which was a good point. He also said patents are a contract between the inventor and society. Yeah, he's really paraphrasable. Funny, too - at one point he said he was like "I need a lawyer. Wait, I am my layer." He said I was a person after his own heart and I feel the same, because he said he has commitment issues choosing just one branch of science. Then again, at this age I'm probably allowed have those.

Raymond Hegarty, Vice President Global Licensing

After shaking my hand and telling me "we're very proud of you", Raymond introduced himself as an "IP strategist - or IP geek". He talked about the invention gap and some of their clients. He then asked me to guess how many patents covered everything in an iPhone. I guessed 200, thinking that was high enough to be safe. He said I was off by a few zeroes, and that it was more like 200,000. Then he segued into a really good explanation of IV, saying they act as a one-stop shop for inventions. It also lets inventors avoid "putting on a suit and talking to people, it's not what they do."

Karen & Outro

We did some final flight-arrangement stuff with Karen and got organised. I have a bit of work to do now but it's very exciting. I want to make the most of this trip now that I've been made aware of its potential. I also got some photos for you, blog readers, which have been scattered throughout this post (photos, not readers). 

Miscellaneous point: one of their computers had "www.izzyroselle.com" as a previous search, and apparently many of them have read my blog. That's both absurd and awesome. 

I had a wonderful time, and this is just the beginning. Thanks, IV. You may be a corporation, but at least you're not faceless anymore. I'll be in touch!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Sentinus Young Innovators 2015

Hey. I did mean to write this blog post yesterday, but I got home and pretty promptly fell asleep, so that didn't happen. So, yesterday was a very important day for me, one I'd worked very hard for and worried over near-incessantly for the past month. To be honest, it could have worked out better.

It's before 7 a.m. and I'm about to leave for Intellectual Ventures HQ for my mentoring day, so I'm just going to get this account out of the way. 

First, a little background. 

Last year, I entered Sentinus Young Innovators (henceforth SYI) with a project about Fibonacci numbers in pine cones. I'd received only a Highly Commended ribbon in the Young Scientist months earlier, so I wasn't expecting much. I had an amazing time last year, loved the judges and was beyond thrilled to be crowned N.I. Young Scientist of the Year 2014 because it so surpassed my expectations. That's second prize overall, below the Intel prize. What I won qualified me to compete in the Big Bang science fair in England, except I couldn't go because I'm not an N.I. citizen so I just got money. I also won the Queens University Award for Mathematics, another unexpected prize. Then the other girl from my school who entered, Anna, won the only prize higher than mine, the Intel prize, and qualified to represent Ireland in Intel ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) with an all-expenses paid trip to Pittsburgh to compete. My teacher won Intel Educator of Excellence and got an all-expenses-paid trip to accompany her. So we were all thrilled.

My school sent two students in and came out with four top prizes. It was crazy.

I'm very fond of this picture.
So going into this year, I had both very positive memories and very high expectations for Sentinus. Another reason I had high expectations is that my project this year is dramatically different from last year's. I started last year's four months before the Young Scientist and did a bit of work, whereas I started this year's project a year and a half ago and have dealt with a ton of stress and difficulty and hard work from it. It is a subject area I care about, obviously, and I will continue to work on it, but I was hoping they would see how much better this year's project is and judge accordingly. And since I came second overall last year, well, extrapolate from that. Yet another reason is that I was disappointed at BTYS earlier this year. I was sick with nerves, was moved category after my first judging and lost my first judge, lots of things. In the end, the project placed a lot lower than I had hoped it would. That was very demoralising. The last reason is that Anna (girl from my school) came first last year when she was in fifth year, and since I was in the same situation I wanted to get that too. It was great to get into BT Business Bootcamp though and I really appreciate the Seattle trip from Intellectual Ventures. 

This year, SYI was on in Ulster University instead of the Odyssey, which had its ups and downs (ups: food and bathrooms nearby; downs: no wifi or seats, no stage for awards ceremony). Anna drove us the whole way up and back between Drogheda and Belfast, so kudos to her. We got there around nine and set up our projects in preparation for the judging to start around half nine.

I had the standard three sets of judges (judges generally come in pairs at SYI) before lunch, then during lunch I had another five sets. I took that as a good sign, seeing as I had had eleven sets last year when I came second overall, and most of those were after lunch. So it was a bit disconcerting when I got none in the thirty minutes of judging after lunch. The standard of projects was very high this year, definitely higher than last year. My old project could never have won N.I. Young Scientist of the Year or the Queens University Award for Mathematics this year. Which was sad. 

My second set of judges were tough, but other than that they all seemed impressed and said so. Maybe they say that to everyone though, who knows. But yeah, the judgings all went well, I think I did my project justice and they all said good things and took a lot of interest. So I was hopeful.

A guy from CREST came over and signed me up for the CREST Youth Council or something similar, and told me I could apply for the Big Bang Fair online. Another guy, a retired teacher, chatted to me for a while. 

Shortly before heading into the awards ceremony, I heard that one boy with a home genetics lab (one of the many bootcamp projects there) had had thirteen sets of judges. Lots of this stuff gets passed around at science fairs, but there were big TV cameras at his stand and everything. So we all thought he'd definitely win. 

The ceremony took ages to start. This one group whose names I can't recall won a ton of prizes, including the sensor prize. I won two, the Gold Science Award (senior category winner) and the Norbrook Award for Best Laboratory Practice. So I got mini trophies (about half the size of last year's) and some money. Which was nice. Niamh won her category (intermediate science so the Silver Science award) and we're all really proud of her. And that was it, there were no more prizes for my school. They didn't offer the I-SWEEEP prize for electronics, which was disappointing. 

Loreto Balbriggan did what we did last year, taking the top three prizes. They didn't get the Queens award, though. So I guess our school couldn't win all the prizes again. 

I wasn't even upset to start with, just very surprised. It really did seem like the judging had gone better. I hadn't even known Lauren (Intel winner) was there. It really does bother me that I did better last year with a project that's not even in the same league, but I think I dealt with it well.  Anyway. 

Anna, Ms O' Regan and I went in one car and the other girls went in another, then we all met up at McDonalds and gorged ourselves. I had a chilli chicken wrap, chips and a berry smoothie. Ms O' Regan had Apple Pies, which she loves. We all ate lots, it was nice. It was really sunny too so we sat outside and chatted. It was very different from last year, when we were elated, or this year at Young Scientist, when we were upset. We were, on the whole, pretty average. 

Anna then drove us home to Drogheda. I fell asleep a few times on the way but we chatted and got on a good bit. She's a very good driver.

When I got home, there was more to be stressed about. And I was anxious to do that presentation for the research group, but then fell asleep so I couldn't even do the blog post. Sigh.

Yes, yesterday could've gone a lot better.