Driven young scientists put distracted motorists to test

TWO budding scientists, too young to drive a car, used a go-kart for their study of distracted motorists — one of 520 projects entered in this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Luke McLeod and Thomas Moore, first-year students at Balbriggan Community College, Co Dublin, will be hoping to make an impression with their scientific investigation when judging gets under way at the RDS today. They know standards will be higher than ever this year, given the record-breaking entry of 1,735 projects for the competition, in its 47th year.

Luke and Thomas, both 13-years-old and first-time entrants, were among the 3,943 students who entered the competition this year. Luke’s older brother, Cián, a fifth-year student also at Balbriggan, won first prize in the Chemical, Physical and Mathematical Sciences category last year.

Cian’s innovative project on flooding looked at using inflated tubes, similar to those used in bicycles to make doors and windows water-tight.

Luke and Thomas wanted to find out what distracted drivers the most — a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone. “Because we both can’t drive we tested them on a petrol-driven go-kart. We went around a track doing sudden stops,” Luke explained.

The boys also interviewed a truck driver and community garda, as well as conducting surveys.

“We learned that hands-free devices were just as bad as hand-held mobile phones so they should both be banned,” said Luke.

BT has created a bursary to financially support schools from outside Dublin with their accommodation and travel costs. Over 38,000 people are expected to visit the RDS over the next three days. President Mary McAleese will preside at the exhibition’s opening ceremony this afternoon, together with BT’s chief executive, Graham Sutherland.

Tánaiste, Mary Coughlan, will visit the exhibition on Friday to present the Young Scientist award and the top prize of €5,000.

Students can now interact with the exhibition through Facebook, Twitter and Bebo, as well as through the website www.btyoungscientist.com.

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