'I was just doing it for the craic': Cork student reveals how he developed program that won Young Scientist award

'I was just doing it for the craic': Cork student reveals how he developed program that won Young Scientist award

Gregory Tarr, 17, a 6th year student from Bandon Grammar School Co. Cork who was announced as winner of the 57th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. Picture: Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography

Greg Tarr, who has recently turned 18, was named the overall winner of at the 57th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) after entering the competition consecutively for the last five years.

As a sixth-year student, this year would have been Greg’s last chance to be named the winner at the competition.

His winning project on ‘deepfake’ detection took months of preparation and utilised a sophisticated artificial intelligence software program that effectively detected deepfake media with state-of-the-art accuracy.

“Essentially I made deepfake detection ten times faster while maintaining its accuracy,” he explained.

“I worked maybe two months straight flat out, but I had been planning it and I downloaded the data sets in advance, and I wrote a whole bunch of scripts maybe six months in advance during the summer. I don’t think at that point I had planned to do it as a Young Scientist project. I was just doing it for the craic.” 

The Bandon Grammar School student worked tirelessly on the project in the run-up the competition and took no days off- not even for Christmas Day.

“I didn’t have Christmas holidays,” he laughed, “I think I worked maybe 12 or 13 hours on Christmas.”

As a biology teacher at Brandon Grammar School, Carena McCarthy has been involved in the competition since the school first entered in 2006.

Ms McCarthy described Greg as “driven” and after years of entries and different prizes for the school, seeing Greg claim the overall title was the pinnacle of their success at the BTYSTE.

“Greg winning has really blown it all away really," she said.

West Cork student wins this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition with a program to detect ‘deepfake’ videos on the internet. Pictured are Nita and Richard Tarr with their son Gregory Tarr, 17, a 6th year student from Bandon Grammar School Co. Cork who was announced as winner of the 57th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition Gregory has taken home the top prize of €7,500 and the BTYSTE perpetual trophy for his project titled “Detecting state-of-the-art deepfakes”.Photo Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography
West Cork student wins this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition with a program to detect ‘deepfake’ videos on the internet. Pictured are Nita and Richard Tarr with their son Gregory Tarr, 17, a 6th year student from Bandon Grammar School Co. Cork who was announced as winner of the 57th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition Gregory has taken home the top prize of €7,500 and the BTYSTE perpetual trophy for his project titled “Detecting state-of-the-art deepfakes”.Photo Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography

“We were just holding our breathes because he deserved something and after five years, this was the last chance. It was so amazing that he won - especially this year.”

With his entries, Greg has switched between biology and AI (Artificial Intelligence) projects and he has won a number of titles and prizes along the way including the Stripe Special Award for the most ambitious use of software and first place in the Senior Technology group in 2020.

However, despite his success, he was not expecting to be named the overall winner this year.

“I was not expecting this. Not at all,” he said.

“As they announced it, I got an email to say join this call and I just leapt up and my parents were next to me and they were screaming, and I was like: ‘calm down, calm down’ and I went and got ready to join the call.”

Though Ms McCarthy noted Greg’s drive and determination, he insists that with a genuine love for all things science and technology, formulating new ideas and projects each year has been enjoyable work.

“It seems like I’m determined but really, I enjoy doing it."

“If you love working, then it’s not work,” added Greg.

More in this section

Sponsored Content