President Higgins said the exploitation of the talents of every young person was crucial.
“Our educational infrastructure must promote resilience. That means it must be characterised and measured by the high achievement of all young people, regardless of origin and background.”
President Higgins said all of the young exhibitors had proven that they are original and even emancipatory thinkers; people unafraid to question the kind of world we inhabited and the kind of shared future we wished to craft.
“I have to admit that, reading through the list of diverse projects that make up this landmark 50th exhibition, I was not only deeply impressed by the innovation and original thinking that was evident in the quirky, original and unusual titles, but was genuinely amazed at the individual thinking behind some of the extraordinary topics listed.”
Students began setting up the 550 projects on display at the exhibition yesterday morning and judging began in the afternoon. The projects had been whittled down from 2,000 submitted — the highest number ever.
Dr Tony Scott, who co-founded the exhibition with Fr Tom Burke, said he was delighted the exhibition had reached a wonderful milestone.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a day like this. It’s just amazing and the future is getting better and better. That’s the way it should be,” he said.
As well as being the main sponsor, BT has been organising the exhibition since 2001.
BT Ireland chief executive Colm O’Neill said that over the past 14 years the company had engaged more students than ever before, trebling the number of entries and introducing a travel and accommodation grant to support schools.
Also at the opening were students from Kinsale Community School, Co Cork, the 2013 winners and winners of a first prize at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists.
Emer Hickey, 16, one of the three girls, said they took bacteria that is found in the soil and used it to speed up the germination of crops, such as barley, wheat, and oats.
“Other scientists said it could not be done but we proved them wrong,” she said.
Emer and the other group members — Ciara Judge and Sophie Healy-Thow — are now in transition year where they had more freedom to enjoy being famous.
“For us, at the moment, it seems the excitement is never going to end,” said Emer.
The exhibition will be open to the public from today and closes on Saturday evening.