Deepfake detection project wins BT Young Scientist competition

Gregory Tarr from Bandon takes top prize of €7,500
Gregory Tarr from Bandon Grammar School Co. Cork with Shay Walsh, BT

8 January 2021

The winner of the 57th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) has been announced as Gregory Tarr, 17, a sixth year student from Bandon Grammar School Co Cork.

Tarr will take home the top prize of €7,500 and the BTYSTE perpetual trophy for his project Detecting state-of-the-art deepfakes.

Tarr impressed the judges with his project using a sophisticated artificial intelligence software program that can efficiently detect deepfake media with state-of-the-art accuracy.

The software, which is over 150,000 lines of code, made significant improvements on speed and efficiency when compared to the current best model without sacrificing its ability to accurately detect the fake. This tool could potentially be deployed at scale to filter out deepfake media making the internet a safer place. This was Gregory’s fifth time competing at BTYSTE having competed on four other occasions in the RDS.

Chair of the technology judging panel Leonard Hobbs from Trinity College Dublin said: “The winner this year demonstrated an expertise in computer science which was well beyond his years. The level of coding he deployed in developing the extremely complex program which detects fake videos, was guided by his deep understanding of the state of the art of this leading edge technology.

“The judges have been continually impressed by Gregory’s projects at the BT Young Scientist competition over the past few years and they were delighted that he had progressed to winning the top award this year.”

Tarr will also represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, scheduled to take place in Salamanca Spain in September 2021.

Speaking at today’s award ceremony Shay Walsh, managing director, BT Ireland said, “Congratulations to all of our participants, and particularly to all our winners. For more than five decades the exhibition has shown the ingenuity of Ireland’s youth and this year’s virtual exhibition is no exception. When I reflect on last year’s award ceremony, when I spoke in front of an audience of over 1,800 people, little did I know what creativity, critical thinking and technical innovation we would need to use to be able to deliver this exhibition during a pandemic.

Students this year really went beyond limits to present their projects to our judges online and they are a credit to their schools, communities, and families. I would like to thank all of those who put such a remarkable event together this year in a virtual setting. Together, by participating and supporting, you have provided a ray of hope and optimism in these dark days. You’ve spotlighted the talent that exists in communities across the island of Ireland and at a time when we must stay at home, you have helped showcase that talent to people across the world – as of this morning visitors from 77 countries have viewed the online exhibition.”

The award for group winners went to Abby Mullins, Chloe Murphy and Megan Carroll from Moate Community School in Co Westmeath for their project Wool – Savior of our sea, which looked at developing a wool blanket which allows the timely and thorough removal of oil slicks following oil spills. Their project was entered in the intermediate group of the biological & ecological category.

The individual runner-up award was presented to Jack Quirke from Colaiste Treasa in Co Cork for his project Investigating possible vegetable oil toxicity using nematodes as environmental bioindicators. He competed at intermediate level in the biological & ecological category.

The group runners-up award was presented to Isobel Hynes and Ava Hynes from Colaiste Treasa in Co Cork for their project Use of the Health Belief model to investigate elements informing young people’s attitudes towards Covid-19 and subsequent impact on response to restrictions and vaccine uptake.

TechCentral Reporters

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