BT bootcamp planting seeds of success for young scientists

A common plant could be used to help treat chemical spills and other river pollution — and young scientists are helping turn the idea from theory to practice this week.

BT bootcamp planting seeds of success for young scientists

While the finding in a BT Young Scientist project in January won a prize based on research with small samples, the team who brought it are getting the support of other budding students and business in a four-day session of group-think and mentoring. It is one of six picked from category winners at January’s exhibition which judges thought had sufficient commercial viability to be further advanced.

The aim of the BT Business Bootcamp is to share ideas and bring new ones on board, while taking the advice and support of dedicated mentors from the worlds of innovation and commerce.

Eoin Hurley from Kinsale Community School has the assistance of four other students, while project partner Emily McCarthy is helping with one of the other five selected projects.

“We wanted to see if lemna minor, a quite common plant in rivers and lakes, could remove inorganic pollutants. We tested it on five that included zinc, aluminium and lead,” he explained.

But the week’s challenge for him and his new team-mates is to plan a partnership with a water treatment firm to see if it could be used on an industrial level. With potential for treatment solutions for chemical spills or other pollution, the event should help move the project findings to possible commercial application.

“We wouldn’t have the facilities in school to go further with it, so we will be looking to experts to help bring it along. But we’ve already got some good ideas from the other students I’ve met today,” he said.

Other ideas making it to bootcamp — attended by 29 students from 16 schools in 10 counties — include the design of a system to communicate road sign messages that are often unnoticed by drivers directly to cars. Aina Hannisa, whose transport pollution survey project won a behavioural sciences prize, has been tasked to help out with the road sign ideas of Roscommon student Alex Gallagher-Lynch.

“It’s really interesting, using radio waves to alert drivers of information from signs. It could be to a screen or a sat-nav in the car, or directly linked to car speakers. Our challenge is to get the idea to first phase of testing, by having the system in cars and road signs in a particular area,” said Aina, taking a few days from her Leaving Certificate studies at Regina Mundi College in Douglas, Cork to attend.

The BT Young Scientist Bootcamp is hosted by University College Dublin’s NovaUCD, where vice-president for research Orla Feely said it helps embed a culture of entrepreneurship in second-level students who want to translate innovative ideas into products and services that can impact on the economy and society.

Other projects are looking at producing ethanol-based fuels from fermenting fruit and vegetable waste, a gumshield to allow radio communication from sports managers to players, and designing an insole with capacity to convert energy from walking to charge a mobile phone battery.

More in this section