Jun 12, 2001

Schoolgirl Makes Car Journeys Safer for Mums-To-Be

NORTHERN IRELAND - A schoolgirl from Grosvenor Grammar School in Belfast has been awarded fourth place at the world's largest youth international science and engineering fair - IISEF 2001 - in San Jose, California, with her groundbreaking project, a maternity seatbelt for cars. Sharon Matchett (18), a sixth form pupil at the East Belfast school, competed against 1,250 projects from over 40 countries at the prestigious event. Sharon qualified for the event by winning the Seagate Northern Ireland Young Innovators competition at the Kings Hall last year.

The maternity seatbelt is designed for pregnant women to wear when travelling in a car. It helps to protect the unborn baby and improves on comfort for the mother. "Women are told to wear their seatbelts under their pregnancy bumps," explains Sharon. "However, they tend to slip up and they do not give much protection to the baby. I've designed a padded vest which the seat belt slips into and which is attached to two other anchor points. In the event of an accident this will provide even restraint all over."

Sharon competed with some of the world's brightest young people at the eight-day event. Sharon's teacher Ricky Cowan, Head of Technology and Design at Grosvenor, commented: "Over the years we have enjoyed a lot of competition success at the school but the IISEF result was an outstanding achievement for Sharon. The judges were extremely impressed with her research, application and design, and indicated that the commercial application of the product was a realistic possibility. Sharon has worked tirelessly on the project and she has produced a result that her school, her family and the Northern Ireland education system can be very proud of."

Seagate Technology sponsored Sharon on her eight-day trip. Dave Brown, vice president and managing director at Seagate's Springtown facility, commented: "We all thought Sharon would do well in San Jose but she surpassed everyone's expectations to pull off a remarkable achievement. We are very happy that our strong support for technology and science education in Northern Ireland has shown such spectacular results on this occasion."

Seagate is the world's leading provider of storage technology for Internet, business and consumer applications. The Company's products include disc drives for the Enterprise, PCs and Consumer Electronics, as well as Storage Area Network (SAN) solutions and Server Appliances. Seagate's market leadership is based on delivering award-winning products, customer support and reliability to meet the world's growing demand for information storage. Seagate can be found around the globe and at www.seagate.com.

Seagate has two facilities in Northern Ireland, employing over 1,800 people between them. The Company's Limavady facility develops and produces advanced media substrates, the basic material for the recording disc inside a computer's hard disc drive. At the Springtown wafer fabrication facility, the Company develops and manufactures the read-write heads that write information onto and read it from the recording disc.

This year's Seagate Young Innovators takes place at the Kings Hall, Belfast, June 21-22. More information is available from NISTRO on Belfast (028) 9036 6682.