SciFest 2019

Sixth year student wins SciFest 2019 with ocean ‘dead zone’ solution

Timothy McGrath from Kerry designed a biofilter to combat oceanic and freshwater dead zones
Timothy McGrath, Killorglin Community College, named overall winner of SciFest 2019. Credit. Keith Arkins

25 November 2019

Timothy McGrath, a sixth-year student from Killorglin Community College, Co. Kerry, was named the overall winner of SciFest 2019. McGrath impressed the judges with his biofilter designed to combat oceanic and freshwater ‘dead zones’.

Through his research, McGrath found that eutrophication – an enrichment of water by nutrient salts that causes structural changes to the ecosystem – turns large areas of the ocean into dead zones. Dead zones are low-oxygen areas in oceans and large lakes caused by excessive nutrient pollution from human activities. To reinvigorate these areas, McGrath built a technically viable solution that stored a halophyte ecosystem to reduce nutrient pollution and decrease algae blooms and the deoxygenation of ocean water and freshwater.

After his successful stints at the SciFest regional and national finals, McGrath will represent Ireland at the International Science and Engineering Fair 2020 in California.




SciFest is an all-island STEM initiative which fosters active, collaborative and inquiry-based learning among second level students. It is funded primarily by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Intel Ireland, Boston Scientific and Specsavers.

“The aim of SciFest has always been to develop a love of STEM and of inquiry-based learning and every year it is refreshing to see how the students of today continue to love and enjoy immersing themselves in science, technology, engineering and maths,” said Sheila Porter, CEO, SciFest.

“The students of today are focussed on the future, the future of our environment and what this means for the global climate. This is apparent in many of the entries we have received and seen this year. We encourage this year’s entrants to continue to ask questions and be bold in their pursuit in using science to help them understand the world around them. The level of innovation, enthusiasm and determination has been wonderful to see today.”

Other award winners at the final of SciFest 2019 were:

  • Marieke O’Connor won the Teacher of Excellence Award for mentoring Timothy McGrath.
  • Orna Collins, won the Broadcom MASTERS Award for her project on ‘Plastic with Potential – Toward a sustainable biodegradeable’ 
  • Eva Connolly, Ella Shanahan and Willemijn Bosschaert won the Berlin Long Night of Science Award for their project on ‘Can we effectively make Biodegradable Clothes? An Investigation’
  • Alice Shaughnessy received the Intel Technology Award for her project on ‘Omnidirectional Magnetic Driving System’
  • Ronan Walsh won the The Society for Science & the Public Award for Community Innovation for on ‘”Beat the Drought” – A smart, staged, domestic greywater, eco-treatment system providing a viable, sustainable irrigation water supply to combat drought and water restrictions’
  • Viktoryia Kharoshankaya won The Abbott Ireland Life Science Award for her project on ‘Psychological and Dietary Aspects in Managing Sugar Cravings’
  • Ruth Madden won the THEA Award for her project on ‘The Microplastic Filter – A Small Solution to a Global Problem’
  • Caomhán Budhlaeir and Illann Wall won the ISTA Award for their project on ‘Does every cloud have silver lining?’
  • Aodhán McGuinness won the SciFest Scientist of the Future Award for his project on ‘Team Performance and the National Football League (NFL) Draft

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