CovidComms Awards Ireland

BTYSTE goes virtual

BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition
BT Ireland
Agency: Hanover Communications
Winner: Best online internal event
CovidComms Awards Ireland

With a history dating back 57 years, the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) has a vision to stimulate a passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) within young people. And, in a year when a global pandemic dominated everybody’s lives, its subject matter has never been more important.

In June 2020, the decision was taken to hold the exhibition – the largest STEM event in Europe, which attracts more than 40,000 people to Dublin’s RDS Arena – in a virtual format, which meant transforming a tried-and-tested programme of events from their traditional physical mode.

Planning for the three-day event, which took place in January 2021, focused on three areas. The assessment of the submitted projects needed to be just as rigorous as ever. Sponsors’ exhibition stands had to be just as compelling in a virtual world, while side events and on-stage entertainment needed to captivate an online audience. There were also the logistical requirements of special events, such as the opening ceremony and the unveiling of the BTYSTE winner ‘live’ at the end of the event.

From the outset, all communications related to the event were digital first, including engaging with students, teachers and parents and the public about the new format for BTYSTE.

A bespoke event portal was created, focused on four zones: students, on stage, exhibitions and a new dedicated teachers’ area, which hosted myriad workshops. All student interviews would be conducted over Microsoft Teams, and rigorous assessment was maintained by the commitment that each project would be judged a minimum of three times. More than 80 judges volunteered to participate.

The event was formally ‘opened’ by President Michael Higgins, who was recorded and streamed live from the Mansion House in Dublin, home to the very first BTYSTE in 1965. This was available to view on the BTYSTE portal and Facebook.

More than 1,000 students representing 213 schools across Ireland participated, entering over 1,350 projects, of which 550 qualified for the competition. These covered topics ranging from Covid-19, ethnicity, solar power, sports science, gender studies to biological diversity.

The event attracted more than 105,000 unique visitors from 77 countries. They enjoyed interviews and presentations on subjects ranging from how to become an astronaut, the climate emergency to Luke O’Neill, professor of biochemistry at Trinity College, explaining how to make vaccines in a global pandemic. The portal and website received seven million hits, which more than 250,000 minutes of video were watched.

The winning student, Greg Tarr from West Cork, created a programme to detect ‘deep fake’ videos on the internet. He received €7,500 and a BTYSTE perpetual trophy. It was his fifth time competing, and Tarr will now represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists.

The campaign generated 1,246 pieces of coverage across regional, national and international outlets. The entry was a ‘clear winner for the judges’, who were impressed by the speed of turnaround and the complexity of the challenge.