Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Inspiring success of a computer wizard with cerebral palsy

Students from the Ulster Business School and the faculties of Arts and Computing and Engineering receive their degrees and certificates at the University of Ulster’s Coleraine campus today.

Among today’s graduates is Keith Johnston who will be awarded a first class honours degree in Computing this afternoon.

Keith has cerebral palsy and uses an electric wheelchair.

Professor David Bustard, head of the School of Computing and Information Engineering, said Keith has shown great strength of character and independence and that his determination to succeed was an inspiration to others.

“Since coming to University in September 2006, Keith has blossomed,” Prof Bustard said.

“He has consistently performed well. His work is of an exceptionally high standard in all aspects of his studies but he is an especially strong and naturally gifted computer programmer.

“Keith is an excellent team player and often brings a strong degree of maturity and experience to the group dynamic.”

Keith, a past pupil of the Royal School Dungannon and the Integrated College Dungannon, plans to return to university in autumn to start working towards his PhD.

Meanwhile, eco-friendly graduate Houston Reid, who receives his BSc degree this afternoon, practices what he preaches.

He and three university friends are working flat out on an idea triggered by the amount of waste left by people at festivals.

“We have developed the idea of producing an environmentally-friendly tent aimed specifically towards music festivals,” Houston said. “We recognised a major problem in this industry and have worked together closely to develop a possible solution. We are developing a prototype eco-tent that can be left behind for compost or just safely disintegrate into the soil.”

The eco-Tent is biodegradable and can be left behind at venues.

“It’s hard to believe but people are leaving their tents behind at festivals,” says Houston (22), from Ahoghill in Co Antrim.

“We carried out research and found that 15,000 tents were left behind at Glastonbury in 2007.”

In the 2010 Enterprise Ireland Student Enterprise Awards, ecoTent picked up the Most Technologically Innovative Idea Award of €7,500 (£6,000) plus €20,000 (£16,000) worth of consultancy.

Three of the team receive degrees at the UU this week. Houston and Stephen Caldwell will be conferred BSc Hons in Computing with Business, while Jonathon Garland graduates in Business and Terri O’Kane will complete her degree next year.

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