ITLG – Top Teen Thinkers visit Silicon Valley


Young Innovator 2014 winners arrive in Silicon Valley

San Jose, California – 8 May 2014. The Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) welcomed the 2014 winners of the “ITLG Young Innovators” competition to Silicon Valley this week. The group of five students and two teachers from Castletroy College in Limerick spent an action packed four days in the Bay Area, their prize for scooping the top award at the ITLG “Young Innovator” event which took place in Limerick earlier this year.

about-itlgThe “ITLG Young Innovators 2014″competition was hosted by ITLG in conjunction with Shannon Airport, Dell, Limerick Institute of Technology, University of Limerick, Limerick City & Limerick Chamber. The students were tasked with coming up with ideas for technological innovations which could be used 50 years from now. A total of 650 secondary school students from around the country participated in the event. The students had an opportunity to win prizes for themselves and their school, to hang out with high level industry mentors and take part in hands-on team workshops focusing on entrepreneurial & innovation skills. There were networking opportunities with high level delegates including technology leaders from Disney, Dell, Analog, Intel, Google, LIT, UL, Coder Dojo. The competition was judged by the stars from RTE’s television’s investor series “Dragons’ Den”.

The Young Innovators and their teachers arrived at San Francisco International Airport on Friday May 2nd and were transported to their Hotel in downtown San Jose, just one block from the ITLG’s technology start up accelerator, The Irish Innovation Centre.

On Saturday they took at boat ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to the infamous Alcatraz Island where they stepped back in time and experienced the legendary island that was one of the most notorious federal penitentiaries in US history.

On Sunday they were treated to a sightseeing Tour of the city of San Francisco which included famous attractions such as Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, Union Square & Chinatown.

The week commenced with a Tour of Intel hosted by ITLG co-founder and Limerick native, Rory McInerney, VP of the Platform Engineering Group at Intel Santa Clara. The Intel Campus tour included a lunch in honor of the winners and an Intel Museum Tour.

On Monday evening the group were hosted by the Collison brothers, former past pupils of Castletroy College & founders of Stripe, the online payments start up.


The trip concluded with a Lunch at Irish Innovation Center in San Jose, in honor of the winners. “Young people and fresh ideas are at the heart of this technological age and the ITLG Young Innovators is all about embracing technology and talent, while inspiring and empowering our young people to shape the innovations of the future. The ITLG are delighted to have created the opportunity for these young students to travel to Silicon Valley and experience the home of global innovation first hand. Education is a critical ingredient for the creation of high-quality employment in Ireland and I wish this year winners every success in the future”, said John Hartnett, ITLG President & Founder. “We are overwhelmed by the incredible prize that the Castletroy College team won at the Young Innovators in January. It has been an incredible opportunity for these students to experience the excitement of Silicon Valley and we hope this will lead to a great future in technology and entrepreneurship for all of them. We would like to thank the ITLG for their generosity in the awarding of this great prize”, said Jude O’Flynn- Murphy, Transition Year Coordinator, Castletroy College Limerick Ireland.

ITLG are planning to hold the next Young Innovators event in Dublin in May 2015.

Overall trip experience, and impact on students:
Though a short trip, the students packed in so much. They visited all the highlights of San Francisco-Golden Gate Bridge & Alcatraz. Silicon Valley was demystified for them and they realised that anything is possible with hard work, vision and the courage to take a risk. Their aspirations have grown and they return to Ireland with a heightened sense of what they can achieve. They have realised that if they wish to achieve success they have to strive for it and that it is possible. They may also have realised that a negative attitude towards self and others is unhelpful, and that the new motto should be “why not” instead of “why”.

Their meetings with fellow Irish, John and Helen Hartnett (ITLG), Rory McInerney(Intel) and former Castletroy College student Patrick Collison (Stripe) showed them what has been achieved by such pioneers, thus giving them the impetus to strive for a better future. This was not just a physical journey but also an attitudinal one to a mental state of the possible.

As a teacher, on my return, I wish to emphasise that though Technology is an essential tool in our world so too are English, Maths and Languages-a point supported by both John Hartnett and Patrick Collison. Students need the softer skills of articulacy and communication. Entrepreneurial ideas are great but will be lost if students are unable to impart their ideas to a broader audience.

I will be able to assure future innovators that there is support in the form of ITLG and mentors/role models such as John Hartnett, Rory Mc Inerney and Patrick Collison.

I would emphasise to students that innovation stems from information, and that if students wish to be successful they have to be willing to broaden and deepen their horizons- by reading, socialising outside their comfort zones, informing themselves globally , testing their ideas and engaging in meaningful nonconfrontational debate with others.

itlg2I would also like them to see that they have to search for what truly inspires them, to find their passion and pursue it. Mentors, teachers, and parents can only facilitate that passion and ambition. Intrinsic motivation is not another commodity that can be bought. Visit to Stripe Students and their teachers were welcomed to Stripe Headquarters by Patrick Collison (Co-founder) who firstly showed them around the building-comfortable open plan surroundings with desked areas conducive to individual work and soft furnishings which allow for conversation or group work. Walls are lined with a broad range of reading material everything from popular fiction to computing. The overall ambience was relaxed where people enjoyed their work.

Stripe has its own chef and as it was 5 de mayo, Mexican food featured on the menu.

Students explained their winning project to Patrick who listened intently and questioned the intricacies of it. They were interested to know what he liked and disliked about San Francisco and what had attracted him to the area.

Over dinner the conversation dealt with a wide range of topics including-cycling, poverty, pollution, nanoparticles, climate change and drones.

Patrick asked if any students studied coding and he informed them that he had taught himself coding by “buying a book in Easons” and teaching himself. He later met the author of that book, his hero who now ironically works for Stripe.

Students were inspired by Patrick whom they expected to be someone with whom they would not be able to communicate, whereas in reality Patrick not only put them at their ease by showing them how “normal” he is but also shattered the “detached genius” myth with which so many gifted, self-made multi-millionaires are so undeservedly labelled.

He was congenial, informed, entertaining and relaxed and as one student said “truly amazing”.

Students left Stripe with a heightened sense of positivity and some much coveted T-Shirts!!

Jude O’Flynn-Murphy
Transition Year Coordinator at Castletroy College Limerick