From education to employment

SERC Apprentice Hannah Finalist in Catalyst Invent 2020

Hannah Dunwoody

A Higher-Level Apprentice in Mechatronics from South Eastern Regional College – @S_ERC has been selected as a finalist in the prestigious Catalyst Invent 2020 @CatalystNI_ competition Electronics category. 

Hannah Dunwoody (19), who is currently furloughed from Lowden Guitars, initially developed her idea, entitled Safe Student, whilst in the second year of the BTEC Level 3 General Engineering programme at SERC.   She said, “My idea came to fruition during my second year when we were tasked to design, build and create our own projects to set specifications. My project was based safety and is essentially a tracking bracelet which is partnered to an app to help people stay safe and locate their friends if they get separated.   

She continued, “It stemmed from my own experience of being out with groups of friends, perhaps going into Belfast for a night out.   It is a bit of a taboo subject; no parent wants to think of their son or daughter under the influence of alcohol, perhaps not knowing where they are or unable to locate their friends but, in reality, this is what sometimes happens.   My idea was to develop a tracking bracelet which works with your phone for young people to wear if they were going out for an evening. If you press a button on the bracelet it will indicate to your friends where you are and similarly if you get separated from your friends, you can locate where they are.  It is a safety device, a little bit of added security to make sure everyone stays safe when they are out.” 

Hannah, who commenced her Higher Level Apprentice with world renowned Lowden Guitars last year said, ”The nature of my work at Lowden  Guitars meant that I was unable to work from home so since March, like many people, I have been furloughed and with that, I found I had plenty of time on my hands.   I had been finishing off assignments and knew the Catalyst Invent 2020 was coming up, so I thought I would make a submission as I had the time to work on my idea and develop it a bit further.  I didn’t even tell my lecturers at SERC I was going to enter, I just thought, ‘Let’s see where this goes’.   Of course there was a lot of work to put in to get this far, and the competition – which included fellow SERC students, The Water Boys – was stiff, so am thrilled to be a finalist.” 

Hannah had to give a three-minute pitch followed by three-minute question and answers to a panel of six from business and industry including Gavin Kennedy, Head of Business Banking, Bank of Ireland NI, Carmen Rico, Partner at Samaipata VC and  Ian Leigh, Founder of Greenwood Way Capital. The finalists were announced online by Kerry McGarvey, INVENT 2020 Programme Manager.   Hannah said, “I don’t mind speaking in public, but doing the pitch online over Zoom was a bit more nerve wrecking! Now I am through to the finals, there are some online mentoring and workshops in the pipeline, and I have to flesh out my business plan to take the project forward.” 

Talented Hannah, who plays guitar, ukulele, and sings, is no stranger to enterprise.   The young lady was instrumental in the development and success of SERC’s award-winning student company, Cutting Edge, a collaboration between art and design and manufacturing and engineering students which produces a range of innovative giftware designed, constructed, and manufactured by students. Students have access to support in the College to get enterprise ideas off the ground through the Enterprise Club, mentoring from Entrepreneur in Residence, Terence Brannigan, and through Project Based Learning is integral to all programmes 

Winners of Catalyst INVENT 2020 will be announced in the autumn.   Winners receive a split of the £33,000 prize fund and mentoring to take their ideas forward. 


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