Food-focused innovations to feature at BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition

Ray Ryan looks ahead to food-focused innovations that will feature among the projects at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.

A record entry of 2,091 innovative project ideas have been submitted by secondary students from 375 schools across the island of Ireland for the 2017 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Some 550 projects have been shortlisted to compete at the exhibition, which is due to take place at the RDS on January 11-14.

The showcase has attracted individual and group entries from 4,591 students, an increase of over 3% on last year.

These hail from 31 counties, and girls again out-numbered the boys with a gender split of 61% female to 39% male entrants.

Cork schools submitted the highest number of entries (353), followed by Dublin (338), Limerick (194), and Tipperary (119).

Social and Behavioural Sciences was the most popular category (41% of entries), followed by Biological and Ecological Sciences (29%), Technology (16%) and Chemical, Physical and Mathematical Sciences (14%).

There are more than 140 teacher and pupil awards to be won, including cash prizes, international trips and the overall title of BT Young Scientist and Technologist(s) of the Year.

Students submitted ideas and innovations on subjects ranging from migration to climate change to concussion injuries.

Projects dealing with farming, food, and rural environment issues figure prominently among the entries. Some of these topics also featured during Science Week, which ended yesterday, having highlighted some interesting statistics.

A cow, for instance, gives nearly 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime. Over 65% of Ireland’s land area is used for agriculture. Roughly 80% of human genes are the same as those found in cows.

Science Foundation Ireland director general Professor Mark Ferguson, chief scientific adviser to the Government, said Irish researchers are developing innovative ways to improve farming.

“As the global population grows these agricultural chievements will be increasingly important,” he said.

The challenge to produce enough food for the growing global population and whether manure and brown bin waste can be used to create organic fertilisers and energy were among the issues examined.

Similar themes run through some of the entrants for the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, providing an insight into the mindsets of the country’s budding young scientists.

A group of students from Bailieborough Community School in Cavan examined the reasons why the colour red is believed to irritate bulls.

Pupils at Mary Immaculate Seconday School in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, investigated the possibility of rushes being used for fuel.

Students at Scoil Mhuire gan Smál in Blarney, Co Cork, conducted a comparative study of willow and other woods to ascertain the best properties for making cricket bats.

The health benefits of iodine found in seaweed was the subject of an entry from a group of students in Meánscoil Na Mbráithre, Ennistymon, Co Clare.

Growing plants for nutrition in space was examined by a group from Moate Community School in Westmeath, while students at Roscommon CBS probed the effects of recent flooding in the south of their county.

BYTSTE exhibition head Mari Cahalane said the event is not just a school science fair. It is a unique event that provides an opportunity for students to dream and to push their imaginations as far as they can.

“Each year we see young people take the first step towards becoming entrepreneurs, scientists and technologists, starting out with a simple idea that can blossom into a formal research concept or even a profitable business,” she said.

Research released by BT Ireland earlier this year revealed that 81% of secondary school students believe that technology has advanced their education and made information and learning more accessible, while 68% believed teachers should use more technology in the classroom.

Education and Skills Minister Richard Bruton said the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition is a fantastic platform for many students.

It is a testament to all involved, that in its 53rd year, the event still continues to grow in such strength and numbers.

“I have been to the exhibition on numerous occasions and it is extremely inspiring and encouraging to see the talent that is being nurtured as students develop their ideas and bring them to life on a national stage,” he said.

The idea for the exhibition arose in 1963 when two UCD physics researchers, Rev Dr Tom Burke and Dr Tony Scott, came across the concept of Science Fairs’ in New Mexico. These events then culminated in State Fairs and ultimately a national competition.

The pair decided that this type of hands-on science could benefit Irish students by taking the subject outside the four walls of the classroom.

And so the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition was born. The first competition was held in 1965 in the Round Room of the Mansion House in Dublin and attracted some 230 entries.

The success of the first year was such that the exhibition moved to the much larger venue of the RDS in year two and it has remained there ever since. In recent years the number of entries has increased dramatically.

Over 40,000 people attend the exhibition each year, making it one of the largest events of its kind in Europe, if not the world.

There have been a great array of winners over the years BT Ireland managing director Shay Walsh said the company’s involvement with the event over the past 17 years represents an investment in all young people and the ideas that they have for improving the world we live in.

“These students continue to amaze us, and we are delighted that they have entered the upcoming exhibition in record numbers,” he said.

Mr Walsh said the exhibition is making a difference. It is launching an increasing number of start-ups, and it is highlighting our talented youth on an international stage.

“We are excited to see what the 2017 entrants have to show us in January,” he said.


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