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The Best and The Brightest of 2024



Age 16
Tanque Verde High School 

Finnegan is a researcher and environmental conservationist who cares about the declining bird population. He got the idea to study bird migration patterns in Southern Arizona from his grandfather who participates in citizen-sourced bird data collections in Germany. 


In 2022, he developed A-BiRD, an innovative engineering device to collect accurate and unbiased data crucial for understanding bird behaviors, migration patterns, and habitat preferences. It incorporates Cornell University’s BirdNET-Analyzer for species identification and Finnegan’s own algorithms for direction finding and cueing.


In a field study conducted in Tucson from September 2023 to January 2024, two A-BiRD devices successfully identified 98 bird species, recording over 21,000 corroborated birdsong events. The study’s findings illustrate changing migration patterns, peak activity periods, and shifts in daily birdy species dominance.


“I am concerned with the declining bird population because we’re dependent on them for pollination, seed dispersal, agriculture, and food production,” said Finnegan. “We need quality data to make smart decisions for the protection of birds, so they can in turn protect us.”


Finnegan has won several awards for his research work, including two 1st and one 3rd Place Grand Awards at SARSEF and AZSEF, sponsored recognitions from the Arizona Public Service Foundation and Texas Instruments, UofA scholarships, and the Broadcom Foundation “Coding With Commitment” Award. He’s also a finalist for the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, sponsored by the Department of Defense, ISEF, and the National STEM Challenge, co-presented by the US Department of Education and EXPLR. 


He’s a black belt in Korean Martial Arts and involved in Mock Trial, Student Council, Theatre and several other clubs at school.  He also finds time to volunteer in the community with his therapy dog, Saya. At age 14, he became Tucson’s first certified Junior Therapy Dog Handler with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. He makes frequent visits to local senior facilities to bring joy to the residents.


“These visits are a source of happiness for seniors struggling with isolation, depression and memory loss,” said Finnegan. “It warms my heart to see the smiles on their faces when we walk in.”

636 W Southern Ave | Tempe, AZ 85282
6339 E Speedway Blvd, Ste 109 | Tucson, AZ 85710