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Northern Ireland teenager gives farmers a hand ... and wins UK invention gong


Colm with his machine that won him UK Young Engineer of the Year

Colm with his machine that won him UK Young Engineer of the Year

Colm with his machine that won him UK Young Engineer of the Year

This is the Northern Ireland teenager whose "world-changing" invention could cut farm accidents - and has won him the UK Young Engineer of the Year accolade.

For his AS Level project, Arkwright scholar Colum McNally (18), from Newry, designed and built a safe and low-cost hydraulically-operated agricultural machine which can be used to drive in fence posts and split logs.

The awards were announced at the Big Bang UK Young Scientist & Engineers Fair in Birmingham by judges including Nobel Prize winner Sir Tim Hunt and first British astronaut Helen Sharman.

Colum said his agri-hammer "takes the safety off the farmers' hands rather than taking the hands off the farmers".

He added: "I'm very happy to have won, it's a fantastic feeling. I'm really proud of all the work that's gone in to my project over the last year and it's brilliant to have that recognised," he said.

"I've been involved in engineering from a young age on the farm, just building bits and pieces as we needed them, and it's amazing to think it's taken me this far."

His dad Mark said Colum had been inventing things ever since he could walk and has another "top secret" invention in the pipeline.

The family run a beef and sheep farm outside Newry and are moving to a paddock-based system which allows the animals to graze fresh grass every day, which requires a lot of fence-building.

"It needs a lot of paling posts and Colum made this post driver to cover that. He thought while he was making it he could have a dual use which is to chop logs - with the amount of woodburners going into farms, this is a very useful one," Mark said.

"A lot of the post drivers on the market are extremely dangerous. But this machine can't operate unless the safety cage is on and to operate it you must be behind the safety cage."

The machine consists of a 300km weight drawn up and down by a steel-wired rope cable, which is operated by a hydraulic system connected to the tractor by a three-point linkage.

"We've used it over the past 12 months and it's working very, very effectively. We're delighted with it and many people want to buy one. But he hasn't gone to a commercial manufacturer yet."

Colum is currently studying for his A-Levels and is hoping to go to Queen's University.

"He's been inventing things since he was about able to walk. He has always been very mechanically-minded and solved lots of small problems within the farm. He's very inventive," Mark said.

Belfast Telegraph