‘We’re like the Red Devils of science’

“We’re like the Manchester United of Europe at science.”

That is how principal Seán Ó Broin describes Kinsale Community School’s record as it prepares to celebrate another national schools’ science title this morning.

But while the school’s three-strong overall winners of the BT Young Scientist title have been the main focus of attention since Friday night, staff and fellow students are also toasting the success of 14 other projects to come away from the RDS with prizes.

“Only around one-third of projects from most schools get selected for the exhibition, but more than two-thirds of ours get to Dublin, including 17 projects up there last week,” said Mr Ó Broin.

“Hearing the school being called out for all those awards, the excitement was amazing. But it was just phenomenal then when the girls were announced as overall winners,” he said.

Two of the team — Sophie Healy-Thow and Ciara Judge — won category awards last year, so they had a taste of what it was like. “Emer Hickey didn’t win anything last year and that encouraged her to get stuck in as well,” he said.

Their work to identify a possible way of speeding up seed germination for some food crops could have major implications for global food security.

Ciara’s older sister Aisling was the school’s first overall winner in 2006, and was followed three years later by the joint project of John D O’Callaghan and Liam McCarthy. They went on to also win a top prize at the EU Young Scientist competition later in 2009, which led to the first comparisons with Manchester United.

“It’s the kind of context that helps students better understand these things, and all those successes keep breeding success. Just like our footballers won an All-Ireland two years ago and our camogie team won last year,” he said.

There were double celebrations for Sophie Healy-Thow’s wider family as her cousin James Barry picked up two awards on Friday night. His survey of public awareness on the health implications of blood sugar levels received more than 1,700 responses and reflects part of the science ethos in the school.

“I’m only working here three years but it was clear from the start that science is embedded here and the students put in a huge amount of work at lunchtimes and weekends to do so well,” said the school’s Young Scientist coordinator Shaun Holly.

Mr Ó Broin also attributes success to the wider community, as well as students and their teachers.

“We have a wall of fame for our past Young Scientist winners, but hopefully our building application will be approved soon because we’re starting to run out of space on the wall,” he said.

Kinsale Community School was pipped for a repeat of last year’s prize as best overall school by Coláiste Choilm in Ballincollig, Co Cork.

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