Projects entered in the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition have reached a level of sophistication that co-founder and judge Dr Tony Scott could not have imagined more than 50 years ago.
“It is my 56th year to be involved in the exhibition and what I have noticed over the years is how students have embraced the changes in science,” said Dr Scott.
The physicist and science communicator, together with Fr Tom Burke, a former teacher, established the exhibition in 1965, after coming up with the idea two years earlier.
“The projects have reached a level of sophistication that we could not have imagined 56 years ago,” said Dr Scott.
“The level of presentation, understanding and communication have all improved and this must be good for the future of the country.”
Judging of the 550 projects by over 1,100 students on display at the RDS began after the official opening on Wednesday.
Dr Scott said they were looking for projects where students had undertaken research, carried out experiments and obtained meaningful results.
“But, most importantly, the students must be able to communicate their results to the judges,” he said.
This year's projects cover a wide variety of topics from climate change to the effects of social media, and everything in-between.
During the last 55 years over three-quarters of a million people have visited the exhibition and over 50,000 people young and old are expected to visit the event this week.
Renowned physicist, Prof Brian Cox, who spoke at the opening of the exhibition, described the projects as “stunning”.
He referred to the projects relating to climate change that make up two-thirds of entries qualifying for the final stage of the exhibition.
If the planet was the only one in a galaxy of two billion stars, then that one thought that improved it was all the more valuable, he said.
“We are collections of atoms that can contemplate atoms and that's a remarkable thing," said Prof Cox.
Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who spoke at the opening, said he was really “blown away” by the work of the students.
“This event is always one that gives me hope; it gives me the confidence that our future as a country is bright and that whatever the challenge is, you, the leaders of the future, will come up with a response," he said.
Mr Varadkar stopped to speak to two Cork students about their project that examined whether climate change was affecting young people's health.
The 4th year students, Una Rainsford and Rachel Murtagh, from Colaiste Choilm in Ballincollig, Co Cork, said the Taoiseach asked them about their results.
Una and Rachel who are both aged 16, conducted a statistical analysis that established a link between climate change and young people's mental health.
Rachel said the Taoiseach asked them if they thought they could make a difference in the fight against climate change or if they felt helpless.
“I told him that younger people used to feel irrelevant but now realised that small changes can make a difference in the big picture,” said Una.
“They are learning to be more vocal by joining climate strikes. They now have a bigger voice than they had before.”
Another Cork student, Andrea Marshall, from St Aloysius School, devised a formula to define how close a ballet dancer was to the ideal angle.
Andrea, 16, a member of Studio Wolfe in Cork, found that better angles achieved by ballet dancers led to better roles.
The 4th year student explained that an ideal angle in ballet is the perfect or best possible space (between two legs) while recreating a set position.
“In my ballet classes, a lot of emphasis is put on elongating your lines – making you look longer than you actually are. This is achieved by creating ideal angles.
“I found out that there is a significant relationship between angle accuracy and the number of roles awarded to professional dancers.”
Andrea also devised a mathematical formula to use as a teaching aid for ballet dancers and tested it.
“During two trials I found that dancers who were dancing for between 12 and 15 years were able to improve their angles by 11.64% and 25.9% in just six weeks."
BT Ireland, the official sponsors of the exhibition for the past 20 years, has announced that it is to continue to sponsor the event until 2023.