About 70 second-level students aged between 16 and 18, from Cork schools, were urged to use technology wisely for the common good as the EUSP opened at City Hall yesterday.
John Barrett, the head of academic studies at the Nimbus Centre for Embedded Systems Research and Cork Institute of Technology, said the “internet of things” — where, by 2034, it is estimated that people will be connected wirelessly to up to 5,000 everyday objects — will deliver vast quantities of data which will have to be managed effectively.
“The challenge is to use that knowledge wisely for the common good of citizens,” said Dr Barrett.
The EUSP, part-funded by the non-profit Robert Bosch Foundation, is designed to strengthen the dialogue between students and science research across Europe.
The chair of EUSP in Ireland, Niall Smith, head of research at CIT and a director of Blackrock Castle Observatory, said the event provides a unique opportunity for young students to learn how the scientific process can influence, and be influenced by, societal needs.
“In this way we hope they will see a new relevance to science in their lives and perhaps consider a rewarding science-based career,” said Dr Smith. “They will also get to see the parliamentary process in action, one which we hope will be enjoyable.”
The students will spend today and tomorrow in simulated parliaments debating a range of issues under the broad theme of ‘The Future of our City’.
As well as learning about parliamentary decision-making, they will engage with industry experts who will brief their working groups before they propose, debate, vote on, and finalise a position and policies paper tomorrow.
Dr Smith said their proposals must be grounded in reality and achievable.
The final document will be presented to Lord Mayor Catherine Clancy and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.
An issue raised by students of Serbia’s EUSP around accessibility on Belgrade’s metro system two years ago was later discussed by Serbia’s national parliament.
Dr Smith said he hopes the issues raised at the Irish EUSP will help shape local and national policy.
Five students will take part in a final European student parliament during the EuroScience Open Forum conference in Copenhagen later this year.
One of Europe’s brightest young scientists said she is looking forward to working with her peers to help build a better tomorrow.
Irish and European young scientist winner Emer Hickey, 16, from Kinsale, Co Cork, was speaking yesterday on day one of the first EU Student Parliament.
Emer was part of a team from Kinsale Community School which won first prize in the BT Young Scientist Exhibition last year.
Along with her friends, Sophie Healy-Thow and Ciara Judge, her brilliant project on seed germination went on to win the biology award at the EU Contest for Young Scientists last September.
Emer said she is now looking forward to applying her scientific skills to addressing wider societal issues.
“This is the first time I’ve donesomething like this,” Emer said.
“Sometimes things like this, you think there are going to be problems, and what are we going to do?
“But I’m quite an optimistic person so I think I’ll bring optimism to this event.
“I’ve done a lot of scientific work at quite a high standard and I’ve seen a lot of other projects. I know the way science works, and how it can help people.
“And I know there are negative effects to all this new technology, so I think my background could be beneficial.”