Kilkenny students sweep the board at BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition

Mary Cody

Reporter:

Mary Cody

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mary.cody@kilkennypeople.ie

Kilkenny students  sweep the board at  BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition

Emily Duggan & Eva Duggan from Loreto Secondary School who won 1st place in the Biological and Ecological Intermediate Group category

Kilkenny students swept the board at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition awards ceremony which was held in the RDS last weekend.

The young scientists, who are students at Meánscoil na mBráithre Criostaí and Loreto Secondary School, impressed the judges and took home four awards from the Social & Behavioural Sciences and Biological and Ecological categories. A total number of 20 projects represented Kilkenny at the exhibition this year.

Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan, both aged 16, fourth year students from Coláiste Choilm, Cork, have taken home the top prize for a project entitled “A statistical investigation into the prevalence of gender stereotyping in five to seven year olds and the development of an initiative to combat gender bias”. The coveted prize was presented to the winners this evening in the BT Arena by Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD, and Managing Director of BT Ireland, Shay Walsh. Cormac and Alan presented their project in the Intermediate section in the Social and Behavioural Sciences category.

Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD, said, “Congratulations to all the students at this year’s BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition and in particular to Cormac and Alan on their fantastic project, well-deserved winners. The atmosphere of excitement, creativity and fun at the RDS this week has been incredible. I am particularly pleased to see so many young people tackling some of the most important issues facing us, from climate change to health, to technology, ethics and societal change. The students are a credit to their families, schools and teachers and they should rightly be proud of being here. They are a huge inspiration.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved in the unique and brilliant event that the BTYSTE is; the organisers; the 83 judges; the dedicated teachers; and of course, the mothers, fathers and families whose support is absolutely key to this.”

Shay Walsh, Managing Director, BT Ireland said, “Congratulations to all of our participants, and particularly to all our winners. For more than five decades, the Exhibition has shown the ingenuity of Ireland’s youth, and this year’s Exhibition is no exception. The students at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition have sought creative and innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues, and that spirit and drive is to be commended. We say “Create Today, Shape Tomorrow” at the exhibition and it really is only the beginning. From the young students involved in The Primary Science Fair to secondary students at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, it is vitally important that every student’s voyage of discovery does not end here.”

The award for Individual winner went to Oscar Despard, aged 17, a fifth year student from Sandford Park, Dublin, for his project entitled “Applying Data-Driven Experimental Analysis to the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging”. The student was in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Category at Senior level.

Oscar’s project used data from a large database of Irish individuals to analyse a number of blood proteins to see if there was a correlation between blood levels and atrial fibrillation (AF). Levels of a protein called LDL showed an unexpected relationship with AF. The research, somewhat unexpectedly, suggested a possible beneficial effect of LDL in reducing the risk of AF. The work went on to show that a protein in white blood cells in the heart played a pivotal role in the process. This exceptional young researcher took a new perspective on a global problem and has brought new insights.

The group runners-up award was presented to Cathal O’Mara and James O’Malley, both aged 13, first year students at Castletroy College, Limerick for their project entitled ‘Bin Buddy – A SMART Sorting Bin‘. The students were in the Technology category at Junior level.

These talented young students took a significant and important social problem, which is the sorting of waste in a domestic setting and delivered a fully functioning, integrated technological solution at a level beyond their years. The project, which sorts out waste into their correct bins through a sophisticated image recognition system, has the potential for accurate waste segregation in a domestic setting. The judges see potential commercial application as it fixes a significant challenge of incorrect waste segregation, attempting to solve a huge environmental issue today.

The Individual runner-up award was presented to Ava Hynes, aged 14, a second-year student at Coláiste Treasa, Cork for her project entitled ‘A statistical analysis of the impact of adolescent smartphone use on adolescent social anxiety and social isolation’ in Social and Behavioural Sciences category at Junior level.

Ava’s project was directly relevant to the lived experience of young people in Ireland and showcased extensive research and impressive methodology utilising internationally standardized scales. The project collected data from 792 12-19-year-old post primary students looking at levels of social anxiety, social phobia and adolescent loneliness, in addition to smartphone usage. Adolescent social phobia levels as well as social isolation were found to be affected by smartphone usage and 14.6% of the sample were found to have problematic smartphone usage levels. The research looked at factors such as age, gender, room of phone usage (such as bedroom etc), number of pickups of the phone, and how these factors related to social phobia and loneliness. Recommendations for parents, governments, technology companies, medical professionals and adolescents themselves are discussed in the research.

 

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