Studying the science of success

Kilkenny students from all corners of the county fled from school en masse last week to Dublin’s RDS. Another year has passed and it’s once again time for a school trip to the BT Young Scientist Competition.

Kilkenny students from all corners of the county fled from school en masse last week to Dublin’s RDS. Another year has passed and it’s once again time for a school trip to the BT Young Scientist Competition.

Kilkenny was represented at this year’s competition by projects from Coláiste Pobail Osraí, Castlecomer Community School , Kilkenny College, and Grennan College Thomastown. With a history of accolades in the prestigious competition, Kilkenny students once again received one of the highest awards up for grabs, with a group of students from Coláiste Pobail Osraí scooping the Best Senior Group Project in the hotly contested Social and Behavioural Category.

The winning project, entered by Keire Ní Murchú, Aílís Ní Gormáin, Cáit Ní Mhaolmhuaigh, and Caoimhe de Buitléir, was entitled ‘Éifeacht prímeáil ar iompar shóisialta i ngrúpaí’ (The effects of priming on group social behaviour). It concentrated on behavioural observations of students when put into certain scenarios. The girls looked at factors such as; group composition, positive or negative wording of instructions, age, layout of the room, and background music. Then measuring noise levels and number of students standing for the duration of the experiment. Among the most surprising of their results was the finding that girls responded better to negatively worded instructions while boys from single-sex schools responded better to positively worded instructions. Group leader Keire Ní Murchú wanted to acknowledge the help of the teachers, staff and 500 primary school students from Gaelscoil Osraí, St. Patricks De La Salle, and Thomastown who participated in their project – ‘we couldn’t have done it without them and they all made everything so easy for us, go raibh míle maith agaibh’. Principal of Coláiste Pobail Osraí, Cathnia Ó Muircheartaigh praised all the students from the county who attended but wanted to state his particular appreciation for the girl’s fantastic achievement.

Other projects presented by Coláiste Pobail Osraí included Aaron Barron’s ‘Éifeacht Truailliú ar Aibhneacha’ (Effect of Pollution on Rivers), a geographical information system based study. Aaron’s project was awarded a ‘highly commended’ prize in the Biological and Ecological category by the panel of judges. The third Coláiste Pobail project was a pollen analysis of a lake core from Kilcooley Estate in south Tipperary titled ‘Ainilis Phailine’, this was run by students Aoise Ní Néill, Molly Ní Bhriain, and Dubhaltach Ó Maolriada.

Grennan College students, Kayleigh Malone, Leanne Prendergast and Victoria Hanlon, also highly impressed the judges with their entry ‘Heavy Bags, A real pain in the back’, a study of the physical impact of school bags on student’s backs. The girls sought to produce an alternative for the heavy school bags carried by students, giving 10 sixth year students wheeled bags to use for a month in order to gauge levels of strain and ache induced by conventional backpacks. The judges at the competition were very pleased with the girls research and investigation.

Kilkenny College’s trio of budding scientists Matt Murtagh, Ben Murphy and Jamie Kerr showed off their knowledge with their project ‘ Effects of School Uniforms on Behaviour and Participation of Students’. The main area of the study was to gauge the effect of wearing a school uniform against not wearing one, and how this affects a student’s learning and participation in class. The boys were particularly proud of their achievement, “its a unique study which hasn’t been done before in Ireland or even the UK” says Jamie.

Keeping with a theme of success across the board, Castlecomer Community School’s entrants did equally well. Young scientists Laura Brannigan and Anita McMahon conducted their study on what they dubbed ‘The Mystery of Migraine’. The girls sought to find what a migraine actually is, how it is brought on, and how many are effected by migraines. From a study of two hundred participants (aged 11-50) they found 31% suffered from migraine, while 60% thought it was just a headache. The girls have been praised for having an overall well researched and helpful project; so much so that Migraine Ireland has invited the girls to attend its national conference next March.