Kinsale schoolgirls compete with Malala and the Obamas as Time Magazine’s Most Influential Teens of the Year

Kinsale Community School students Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey, and Sophie Healy-Thow, the grand prizewinners at the Google Science Fair in San Francisco, on their return to the school.

Three schoolgirls from Kinsale have been listed by Time magazine as among the 25 Most Influential Teens of the Year.

Ciara Judge, 16, Emer Hickey, 17, and Sophie Healy-Thow, 17, are ranked alongside Will Smith’s son Jaden, US President Barack Obama’s daughters Sasha and Malia, and Malala Yousafzai, who received the Nobel Peace Prize last week.

Ciara and Sophie said the announcement was “insane” and came as a complete surprise. The magazine’s readers will vote for the eventual winner.

Emer, Sophie, and Ciara attend Kinsale Community School and two years ago were named the BT Young Scientists of the Year.

The Time write-up states: “The trio from County Cork, Ireland took home the grand prize at the Google Science Fair after wowing the judges with their discovery: Diazotroph, a bacteria that sucks nitrogen from the atmosphere into soil, speeding up the germination of cereal crops like barley and oats and — more importantly — increasing their yield. This advance could play a crucial role in solving the global food crisis, and Judge, Hickey and Healy-Thow are already planning to commercialise it.”

Ciara told the Irish Examiner: “It is pretty incredible — we are over the moon. It is a strange feeling, we are normal kids. I think everyone on the list is pretty happy that Malala is on there and that she will win. She is someone I look up to so much.”

Ciara, who like her friends is now in fifth year, had just returned from a music class when she learned of their placing on the list, while Sophie said the story popped up on her Facebook feed.

“We went into this project having no idea that it would work. Our results came as such a surprise to us.”

Ciara said she hoped the project would act as “a puzzle piece in the equation” of solving the global food crisis. “That has been our aim,” she added.

The trio now have a large scale field trial of their project under way in Kinsale and hope to analyse the results when the seeds are harvested. Until then, they will follow the voting, in which last night they were polling higher than the Obamas.

Sophie said: “I would love to meet those people. Winning is not really a thing for me, it is more about meeting people along the way.”


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