Meet some of this year's BT Young Scientist hopefuls

A teenager’s brilliant idea could lift him to great heights in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Saron Dalton, 10, Mia Walsh, 9, Caoimhe Shovlin, 10, and Fiona Rose Redmond, 9, from St Brigid's GNS, Killester.

Michael Doyle, a second-year student at St Fintan’s High School in Sutton, Dublin, used mathematical formulae to describe a more efficient crane than those currently used.

“The advantage of the crane which I theorised can lift a bigger load and reduce the number of counterbalance weights that you need to maintain equilibrium,” explained Michael.

“It can also make it easier to assemble and transport the crane because the weight of the lever itself in the crane is being exploited.”

Michael’s project is one of the finalists in the exhibition’s chemical, physical, and mathematical sciences category. He has been working on it since February.

It mathematically describes how a body with mass will act while balancing on a fulcrum.

“I have thought of seven experiments regarding the subject matter — moment and levers,” he said.

“I have described each one mathematically with a new formula because I was curious to see how they would work.”

Michael Doyle, St Fintan’s High School, talks Education Minister Richard Bruton through his project at the RDS. Pictures: Gareth Chaney.

The last two formulae describe the new type of crane that he has theorised, whereby the horizontal section shifts by a certain amount to counterbalance the shift of a load more
effectively.

“I like mathematics very much. I would like to be a professor of theoretical physics one day. Members of my family are engineers but what I like to do is more academic,” said Michael, who is also a proficient piano player.

“I had an interest in maths from a young age. It started with physics. I was always interested in astrophysics and still am.”

It is Michael’s first time entering the exhibition, now in its 54th year, but, no doubt, he has found a platform to showcase what his young and brilliant mind has achieved.

Crea Brady, 12, from Ratoath College, Co Meath, at the Irish science teachers association stand.

His project is one of 550 on show across four categories at the RDS, as the event
continues today — tonight this year’s overall winner or winners will be presented with a cheque for €7,500.

The top prize includes the chance to represent Ireland at the 30th EU Contest for Young Scientists that will be staged in Dublin in September.

Education Minister Richard Bruton, who visited the exhibition yesterday, said it gives a massive boost to young people who are interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“Every year you see very topical issues being taken up by young people because they are at the cutting edge with the social media — they know what’s current,” he said.

Mr Bruton said he found it really encouraging that there are more analytical and mathematical tools being applied by young people.

“What struck me as I walked around the exhibition is the growing scientific complexity of the challenges that the young people are taking on,” he said.

“Whether it be mathematical, physical, or biological, they are looking deeper at the challenges. They are applying more sophistication and testing to their hypotheses. I think that is really encouraging for the direction we are taking.”

Mr Bruton pointed out that some reforms have been introduced in the Junior Cycle, where the approach to a subject like science is going to be much more around projects and taking on challenges.

“I think what you see here is the merit of that sort of approach,” said Mr Bruton.

“Young people thrive in an environment where they are challenged by a project, particularly if they are working together. I think this exhibition is a really good signal of the direction education needs to take.”

Morgan Curran, 12, Catherine McCauley NS, Baggot St.

As well as the shortlisted student projects on display, there are a further four exhibition halls filled with cutting-edge science and technology-based exhibits and entertainment, making it a thrilling event for the 1,100 inspiring students showcasing their projects and the
expected 50,000-plus visitors.

The exhibition is open to visitors today and tomorrow.

For more information on how to get involved, visit www.btyoungscientist.com    

Students show gut instinct for concentration levels

It was really food for thought: Budding scientists discovered that their belly controls their brain and if it gets ‘good stuff’ they can concentrate more.

Students at Scoil Naomh Fionán, Belgooly, Co Cork, proudly showcased their science project — Belly-Brain Talk: Which Food is Best, at the RDS Primary Science Fair in Dublin.

Hazel O’Kelly and Evan Lehane, from Scoil Naomh Fionan, Belgooly, Co Cork, with their project on ‘Belly-Brain Talk’.

The 5th and 6th class students learned that their ‘gut feelings’ are real — they really do talk to their brains. They kept a food diary and tests showed that what they ate affected their concentration levels.

One of the students, Conor Ford, said they learned that bad bacteria made them feel unhealthy, unhappy, and unable to concentrate as well.

“We found that a reduction in sugary foods and an increase in the amount of fibre and yoghurts may be linked with better concentration in our tests,” said Conor.

Siobhan O’Mahony from the Department of Neuroscience and Anatomy at University College Cork talked to the children about food and brain health.

Dr O’Mahony who is a principal investigator in the neurogastroenterology core of the APC Microbiome Institute, said studies have shown how gut bacteria affect the entire body.

“My main interest would be how the gut bacteria affects your brain and how stress affects gut bacteria,” she said.

She found the children’s sugar levels were very high and their fibre levels were deficient. Yoghurt consumption was also very low.

“I gently guided them along and found they were very responsive. I worked with the children for about eight weeks.

“We only finished our project on Wednesday. It was great fun.”

Charlie Goodliffe, Ruby Dorgan, St Oliver Plunkett, Malahide.

Almost 3,000 students are exhibiting their science project at the fair that runs until tomorrow.

The fair, now in its ninth year, is a non-competitive event designed and fully managed by the RDS. It operates on a whole-class basis, making sure that everyone gets involved.



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