Project shows there’s no limits for Joanne

A TEENAGER who forced the Government to tear up its budget plans to cut disability allowance for young people is among the top contenders in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Within hours of the cuts being announced last December, Joanne O’Riordan, 15, who was born without legs or arms, released images of Taoiseach Enda Kenny promising her that he would not touch the disability allowance. She also penned a letter to Mr Kenny, which the Irish Examiner printed on the front page, in which she castigated him for going back on his promise.

Joanne, one of seven people in the world with total amelia, is a transition-year student at Millstreet Community School, Co Cork. She and her classmate Nadine Spillane, 15, succeeded in having their project, No Limbs, No Limits, showcased at the exhibition at the RDS. The pair investigated the factors that contribute to the exam performance of people with long and short-term disabilities.

“We found that the majority of people with limb disabilities achieved their potential in the state exams,” said Joanne. “Some under-achieved, but the teachers told us that was due to them not studying enough or just not listening in class.”

Joanne laughed when reminded of her telling off the Taoiseach for breaking his pre-election promise.

She said her brother Stephen was producing a TV documentary, also entitled No Limbs, No Limits.

“It is about me and other people like me in the world who have no limbs,” said Joanne, who wants to be a journalist.

A project by transition year students Seamus Monahan, 16, and Thomas Coffey, 15, from Coláiste Choilm, Cork, looked at replacing schoolbooks with iPads. They assessed the use of iPads by first-year students in their school in a bid to see if they were a better way to learn.

The use of iPads instead of textbooks by 31 students is part of a pilot programme supported by Stream Solutions. Coláiste Choilm is the first school in Cork to introduce iPads into the classroom and the students have been using them since September.

“The students, parents and teachers all agree that the computers are better than textbooks,” said Seamus. “Students can use a range of applications to learn more about a subject and the iPads also significantly reduce schoolbag weight.”

A project by students from Coláiste an Chraoibhín in Fermoy, Cork, involved testing accuracy in numbers. Transition students Adrian O’Brien, 16, Chris Wheeler, 16, and Adam Howard, 15, asked people at the exhibition to guess the contents of glass jars. They hope the average guess will be close to that contained in the jars.

Adrian explained the idea for their project came from a popular BBC TV show, The Code. “It worked for them, so we are hoping it works for us,” he said.

Facts and figures

* IT is 48 years since the competition began, with BT the organiser and sponsor for the past 12 years.

* 1,195 students entered this year, with 1,743 projects from 354 schools.

* 550 projects were accepted to take part in the finals, an increase of 30 on last year.

* The youngest ever winner was 13-year-old Emer Jones from Tralee, Co Kerry, who took the top prize in January 2008.

— Evelyn Ring

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