Cork students Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan named Young Scientist winners

Cork students Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan named Young Scientist winners
cap=Alan O'Sullivan and Cormac Hayes. Picture: Fennell Photography

Cork students Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan have been named as the Overall Winners at the 2020 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.

Both 16, the Coláiste Choilm students claimed the top prize with their project: A statistical investigation into the prevalence of gender stereotyping in 5-7 year olds and the development of an initiative to combat gender bias.

The 2020 winners received the BTYSTE perpetual trophy and the top prize of €7,500.

The pair will also represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, which takes place in Santander, Spain in September 2020.

Cormac and Alan will also get to attend the 62nd Annual London International Youth Science Forum later in the year.

Professor Joe Barry, Head Judge of the Social and Behavioural Sciences Group category, said: "Despite awareness of the lower percentage of females relative to males pursuing study and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), we still do not understand exactly why this is the case.

"The aim of Cormac and Alan’s project was to determine how early gender stereotyping can be identified.

Alan O'Sullivan and Cormac Hayes. Picture: Moya Nolan
Alan O'Sullivan and Cormac Hayes. Picture: Moya Nolan

"They conducted workshops with 376 5-7 year olds from a range of school settings with a number of different tasks including: choosing between gender-specific and gender-neutral toys; drawing and naming an engineer, and; rating male and female competency at a number of gender-specific roles.

"One of the most striking findings emerging from the research was that 96% of boys drew a male engineer while just over 50% of girls drew a female engineer.

"This, along with the other data, indicates that gender stereotypes emerge in young children and that they are particularly strong among boys.

Cormac and Alan’s findings are important as intervention typically focusses on girls, but the project recognises the need to focus on all children, boys and girls, from a young age, in order to combat the development of gender stereotyping.

The award for individual winner went to 17-year old Oscar Despard.

The fifth-year student from Sandford Park, Dublin, won for his project entitled: Applying Data-Driven Experimental Analysis to the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging.

The 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)," said a statement.

Levels of a protein called LDL showed an unexpected relationship with AF.

The research "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 project "sorts waste into their correct bins through a sophisticated image recognition system, has the potential for accurate waste segregation in a domestic setting."

The individual runner-up prize went to went to 14-year-old Ava Hynes from Coláiste Treasa in Cork.

Her project was: A statistical analysis of the impact of adolescent smartphone use on adolescent social anxiety and social isolation.

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.

The exhibition continues tomorrow and is open to the public from 9.30am until 5.30pm.

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