Two fourth-year students from Coláiste Choilm in Ballincollig have won the top prize at this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition for their project investigating gender stereotyping in younger children.
The project by Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan, both aged 16 and from nearby Ovens, was hailed by judges as a “useable resources for primary school teachers to combat gender stereotyping”.
Both Alan and Cormac were stunned at their win, with Cormac stating: “We were absolutely shocked — we had no idea anything was going to happen.”
The pair claimed the top prize at the 56th hosting of the event after they conducted workshops with 376 children aged five to seven from a range of school settings.
They set them different tasks, including choosing between gender-specific and gender-neutral toys, drawing and naming an engineer, and rating male and female competency at a number of gender-specific roles.
Among the findings was that 96% of boys drew a male engineer while just over 50% of girls drew a female engineer, indicating that gender stereotypes emerge in young children and that they are particularly strong among boys.
Cormac said as they were now choosing their Leaving Certificate subjects they noticed that their male peers were veering towards STEM subjects while many girls were selecting other subjects such as Art and Home Economics. “We all got the same education so we were asking ‘why is there this divide?’” Cormac said.
The duo had entered the project in the Intermediate section in the Social and Behavioural Sciences category and received the top award from Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, and Managing Director of BT Ireland, Shay Walsh.
Cormac and Alan will now represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, which takes place in Spain in September. They will also attend the 62nd Annual London International Youth Science Forum later in the year, and they got the ball rolling with an appearance on last night’s Late Late Show.
Alan said he is interested in becoming a primary school teacher while Cormac aims to study computer science, and both paid tribute to their school and in particular the two double classes each week tailored towards BT Young Scientist work. Their science teacher, Karina Lyne, said of Alan and Cormac:
“They were just great kids to work with from day one. They did phenomenal work.”
Head Judge of the Social and Behavioural Sciences Group category, Professor Joe Barry, said:
The project is particularly impressive in that Cormac and Alan also created very pertinent and useable resources for primary school teachers to combat gender stereotyping among young children.
Minister McHugh praised Cormac and Alan on their “fantastic project” and said they were “well-deserved winners”.
The award for Individual winner went to Oscar Despard, aged 17, a fifth-year student from Sandford Park, Dublin, for his project entitled ‘Applying Data-Driven Experimental Analysis to the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging’.
The individual runner-up award was presented to Ava Hynes, 14, a second-year student at Coláiste Treasa in Kanturk in Co Cork for her project entitled ‘A statistical analysis of the impact of adolescent smartphone use on adolescent social anxiety and social isolation’ in the Social and Behavioural Sciences category at Junior level.