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Moray girls beat 26,000 teenagers to win UK technology contest

By Alistair Whitfield

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Speyside High pupils Isla Horsburgh and Phoebe Rees give their presentation.
Speyside High pupils Isla Horsburgh and Phoebe Rees give their presentation.

A COMPUTER app that can detect cleft palettes in unborn babies has seen two Speyside High School pupils win a UK-wide technology competition.

Phoebe Rees (14) and Isla Horsburgh (15) beat off competition from 26,000 other teenagers to scoop first prize in the 'emerging technology' category of the Apps For Good awards in London.

The pair came up with their invention, known as Ultra IR, after Phoebe's sister was born with a congenital abnormality.

The girls' computing teacher, Marc McWhirter, who also won the 'Educator of the Year' at the awards, said: "What Phoebe and Isla have developed could have a massive impact on the world.

"We are immensely proud of their hard work, effort and ambition.

"They are incredible role models for young women looking to enter a career in science.

"I really enjoyed helping them to develop their idea into a working prototype alongside my colleague Fiona Padbury who was completing her teacher training at Speyside High."

The prototype app the girls have created uses image recognition and was trained using pictures of foetuses both with and without clefts.

The team were flown to London for the finals of the competition where they had to deliver a seven minute pitch to a panel of ‘dragons’ from the technology and banking industries.

In order to prepare for the finals, they were mentored by Aberlour-based SPEY Media Ltd and by sofware and digital specialists EPAM.

Phoebe said: "My sister Megan was the inspiration behind our app. Ultra IR could have prevented some of the health issues that our family had to overcome."

Meanwhile, Isla said: "I still can’t believe that we won. Being part of the competition was great. We really enjoyed it. We'd also like to thank our classmates. We came up with our idea after listening to them – they were a great inspiration."

Head teacher Patricia Goodbrand stated that the whole school was delighted at the pair's triumph.

She said: "The girls and their teacher Mr McWhirter have worked very hard towards this competition and their success is very much deserved."

Watch Isla and Phoebe give part of their presentation here

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