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Innovation and talent awarded

An awards ceremony for students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) at Northern Ireland's six regional colleges is a reminder of the great potential at the heart of apprenticeships.

Software development, creative media and engineering all featured in the annual College Best (Business and Education through Training and Skills) Awards held in Cookstown.

Many apprenticeships - such as those that are in engineering and IT - will reward prowess in Stem subjects.

More than 100 students and 70 projects competed in the Best Finals last week, with projects demonstrating the application of Stem knowledge in the real world across a range of disciplines.

Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry, who awarded the prizes, said: "A workforce that is skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) is fundamental to Northern Ireland's future competitiveness.

"Developing our skills base, especially in these areas, is absolutely vital if we are to meet the current and future economic challenges we face.

"The Best Awards have stimulated our college talent and I have been greatly impressed by the high standards that have been shown by all the entries.

"I hope that many of the people here today continue to be inspired by the Stem subjects and go on to have a successful career in this sector in Northern Ireland."

The Best award winner in the 16-to-18 category was Michael Semple who is a student at South West College.

He came up with Mummies and Pharaohs - a multi-media 3D platform recreating the sensation of walking where an Egyptian would have walked thousands of years ago.

Meanwhile, Ethan Fiddes, Leanne McCaughtry and Paul Smith - all students at Southern Regional College - triumphed in the 19-plus category for a stop-motion video on new and emerging technologies which has been picked up by GoogleAds.

Gerry Campbell, Chief Executive of Colleges NI, said: "The standard and quality of projects is a testament to the creativity and innovation in our colleges that is often not fully recognised.

"These people will go on to be the innovators, creators and business leaders of tomorrow.

"I also want to pay tribute to all those hard working and dedicated staff in our colleges who worked hard to support participants and contributed so much to enriching the learning experience of their students."

The runner-up in the 16-to-18 category was Kane Launder of Northern Regional College, who developed an internal pneumatic car-jack system for Ulster Drift Car Championship.

And Belfast Met students also had something to celebrate as Mark Stuart, Brian Kilpatrick, Ashleigh Devitt, Timothy Sloan and Conor Carville were runners-up in the 19-plus category for a Hangman Education Quiz Application, based on the traditional hangman format, aimed at ages five to 11.