Young Einsteins vie for coveted science title

PAUL HARRINGTON, 12, put in the boot to show off his project at this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

The first-year student at Kinsale Community School, Co Cork, has been examining the relationship between inflation pressure and the performance of a football.

His project, one of 500 being showcased at the RDS in Dublin, presents the results of tests on how air pressure in a football affects the distance it travels.

Helping him to set up his project in the chemical, physical and mathematical section yesterday was fellow student and mentor Aisling Judge, who became Ireland’s youngest Young Scientist in 2006.

Aisling, now a fifth-year student, was just 14 when the judges singled her out for the coveted title for her project on food spoilage.

She helped Paul erect an artificial booted leg on an A-shaped ladder he has been using to examine football inflation pressure.

Paul found that the best pressure to send the ball the furthest distance is 0.1kg per centimetre squared.

“I was most surprised that the ball travelled the furthest distance at such a low pressure — the ball was almost completely flat,” he said yesterday.

In the biological and ecological section three transition year students from Coláiste na Sceilge in Caherciveen, Co Kerry, were raising a glass of water.

Colman Quirke, Alan Donoghue and Gearóid Quirke, all 16, had run a series of tests on Kerry’s public drinking water and found it was quite good.

Their maths and science teacher Jennifer Barry said they had been interested in Galway’s water crisis and were a bit disappointed that they did not find any nasty bugs, like cryptosporidium, in Kerry’s drinking water.

In the same section were three fifth-year students from Confey Community College in Leixlip, Co Kildare, who looked at how schools contributed to the development of type-2 diabetes.

The students — Shona Mulligan, Hannah Doherty and Niamh McDonnell — found that while the school was doing its best to provide healthy food, it was not as healthy as it appeared.

They were surprised that a popular fruit-based drink contained more sugar than coke.

And they found that some students were snacking from the school’s vending machines three times a day and probably snacking again when they got home.

The trio are now helping the school introduce a healthy eating policy.

In the chemical, physical and mathematical section was sixth year Clare student Noreen Lynch with her project that looked at the effectiveness of radon barriers.

The student at Mary Immaculate Secondary School in Lisdoonvarna looked at the plastic barrier methods in houses in north Clare.

“I found that both barriers are not as effective as people think. I am particularly concerned that punctures can occur during building work that are not taped over.”

Noreen held up a phoney timebomb to demonstrate her point. “Radon gas is like a time bomb ticking away because it builds up of a long period of time.”

In the social and behavioural section, three fifth year students from Elphin Community College in Roscommon, had put up a silver male torso bedecked in coloured lights to show off their project on the physical attractions of men.

Shannon Cull, 17, and Orla Conroy and Sarah Brady, both 16, found that while younger female students like a lad to have a nice head of hair, hygiene tops the list for the senior girls.

Meanwhile, in the technology section, Paudie Walsh, a transition year student at Hazelwood College, Dromcollogher, Co Limerick, was showing off a device that will allow gardaí use a radar-type gun to check that seatbelts are being worn.

Paudie, 16, said the seat sensors could be installed when a car is being manufactured.

Before the first round of judging began yesterday afternoon students gathered for the official opening of the exhibition by President Mary McAleese.

Also present was last year’s Young Scientist winner Emer Jones, a third-year student from Presentation School, Tralee, Co Kerry.

The teenager, who was aged 13 at the time, became the youngest ever BT Young Scientist with her winning project showing how sandbag shelters can be developed to withstand earthquakes and high winds.

Asked what she did with her €5,000 prize money, Emer said she used some of it to buy a laptop computer and the rest to contribute towards building a house in Africa.

The 2009 winner will be announced at the RDS tomorrow and prizes will be presented by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe.

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