18-year old Colum McNally and his invention the Agri-hammer

Agrihammer inventor named Young Engineer of the Year

An 18-year old inventor from Northern Ireland succeeded in this year’s National Science and Engineering Competition with his log-splitting fence-building machine.

Dubbed the ‘Agrihammer’, the machine impressed the judges with its potential for eliminating farming accidents and saving farmers’ time and money. The inventor Colum McNally, who is a student at St Colmans College in Newry, has gained in-depth insight into the farmers’ needs growing up at his parents’ cattle farm.

"Colum is just brilliant,” said Kate Bellingham, Chair of the Engineering and Technology judging panel. “His project will make his work so much better, more accessible and it really is making the world a better place,”

The AgriHammer, attached to the tractor three point linkage and powered by a hydraulic ram operated via a spool valve lever behind a safety grille, is virtually combining two functions for which two separate machines, worth £6,000 each, would otherwise be needed. McNally said his machine, equipped with innovative cable and pulley multiplier system, could be made for a fraction of the cost of the alternatives.

“It’s an absolute honour to be the UK Young Engineer of the Year 2015,” McNally said. “I have worked so hard on my project, and really enjoyed applying maths and physics to solve a problem that’s so prominent in the agricultural community.”

Approximately 12 farmers a year are killed or injured in Northern Ireland in accidents with fence drilling machines and wood chopping.

McNally, who said, he’d been building ‘bit and pieces’ for his parents’ farm ever since he was a child, plans to study mechanical engineering at a university starting in September.

"It's amazing to think it's taken me this far," he said.

The National Science and Engineering Competition, run by The British Science Association, also awarded the title for the Young Scientist of the Year, which went to 17-year old Sarah Sobka.

The aspiring scientist found that medicine commonly used to treat women with irritable bowel syndrome shows promise for treating cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that usually kills suffers by the age of 40.

The National Science and Engineering Competition is open to all 11-18 year olds living in the UK and in full-time education. On this year’s judging panels were some true science and technology celebrities including Nobel Prize winner Sir Tim Hunt, astronaut Helen Sharman and Roma Agrawal who was part of The Shard's construction team.

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