President Michael D Higgins delivered a rousing call to action, asking Irish school children to tackle climate change and create a better world.
"If we are to achieve that transformation that is now urgent, we need the involvement of young citizens to remain curious, constantly seeking solutions to questions they insist on keeping open," he said at the opening of 55th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition in Dublin's RDS.
President Higgins said the work at the exhibition had the potential to solve some of the world's most pressing problems.
"Between you, you have produced a vast body of impressive work, so much of which deserves to be considered at the highest level, as a contribution to the urgent measures that we must take together if we are to solve some of the world's most pertinent problems, which are now at a point of emergent crisis," the President said.
There are 550 projects on show at this year's exhibition, 88 of which explore climate change and environmental issues such as plastics in our oceans.
President Higgins said the climate crisis needs to be faced up to.
"It is a crisis that none of us can afford to ignore, not as I have said only for own sakes, but for the sake of the very existence of the planet itself," he said.
"No responsible people, nation, community or body of citizens can afford any longer, to ignore or delay environmental issues, issues of growing inequality as well, obdurate global poverty, gender discrimination."
While these issues have originally been viewed as matters of justice, President Higgins said that tackling them is now a matter for all of society.
"At a most practical level, seeking their resolution is absolutely necessary now all over the planet, as a basis for social cohesion, a social cohesion that is getting more fragile at every level, of every society, in every continent," he said.
The President pointed out that we lived on a planet that is 4.5 billion years old, that is being "put at risk by policies that are only 250 years old".
He said that the world was now "reliant" on the efforts of the youngest generation to bring about positive, sustainable change, in order to move the world away from its "present destructive tendencies".
President Higgins emphasised that there are "no inevitabilities," either in social or economic policy, and that change can happen.
The President then made a "pitch" to this year's young scientists to read two books, that have made an "exceptional contribution" to social economics - Mariana Mazzucato's 'The Value of Everything,' and Sylvia Walby's 'Crisis.'
Of the 550 projects on display at this year's exhibition, across four categories: technology, biological and ecological, social and behavioural sciences, and chemical, physical and mathematical sciences, there are more female entrants than male.
A total of 55% of the entrants are female and in maths and physics, there has been a 64% increase in the number of projects in this area from girls, compared with last year.
President Michael D Higgins receives a rousing reception from hundreds of Youngest Scientists at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. pic.twitter.com/UbWLG058Ea— Mental Health IRL (@MentalHealthIrl) January 9, 2019
As well as the projects on display, more than 20 shows a day will take place during the exhibition for both students and visitors to see, including ‘Space: The Next Frontier’, a 3-D spectacle celebrating 50 years since the Apollo moon landing, highlighting the development of manned space flight.
The exhibition is open to the public until Saturday.
President Higgins closed his address by urging students to use their talents and curiosity to create a better world.
"Take that value, the capacity to not only imagine, but to realise for all those to come, a sustainable, just world," he said.