BT Young Scientist winners receive heroes' welcome as they return to Cork

The two teenage pals who were crowned BT Young Scientist winners would like to see their resource pack for tackling gender stereotypes introduced into schools around the country.

BT Young Scientist winners receive heroes' welcome as they return to Cork

The two teenage pals who were crowned BT Young Scientist winners would like to see their resource pack for tackling gender stereotypes introduced into schools around the country.

Cork students Cormac Harris and Alan O'Sullivan, both 16, said it would be great to pilot their resource pack in some schools first, test its effectiveness, with a view to rolling it out on a wider scale.

The pair, who've been friends since attending primary school in Ovens NS in Co Cork, were speaking before receiving a heroes' welcome back to school today at Colaiste Choilm, in Ballincollig, where they are both in Transition Year.

It is the second time in three years the school has taken the top prize at the prestigious competition.

The 2018 winner, Simon Meehan, looked on as Cormac and Alan said they were delighted their win was helping to "shine a light on this important topic".

"The project investigated the prevalence of gender stereotype in 5 to 7 year olds and then based on the results we got from that, we created some resource packs," Cormac said.

They conducted workshops with 376 5-7 year olds from a range of school settings with a number of 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.

One of the most striking findings from the research was that 96% of boys drew a male engineer while just over 50% of girls drew a female engineer.

Their findings indicated that gender stereotypes emerge in young children and that they are particularly strong among boys.

Alan said they hit upon the idea when they were choosing subjects for their Leaving Cert.

"We realised that more girls were choosing subjects like home economics and art and more boys were choosing subjects like construction so we were wondering where did this gender divide come from. So we thought it would be a good idea to look at it in more details," Alan said.

They both said they hope to assess the impact of their resource pack in some schools, before contacting key figures in education to discuss taking it further.

Their science teacher, Karina Lyne, who has been overseeing students' Young Scientist projects since 2003, said it's all about picking the right students.

"They are such hard workers," she said. "They had a number of ideas at the start of the year which were ruled out.

"I said no a number of times and then they came with this idea and I knew it was novel.

"It has great potential and this is the year that they can take it further. There is lots of scope. There is room to bring this further."

The pair will now represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, which takes place in Santander, Spain in September.

They will also get to attend the 62nd Annual London International Youth Science Forum later in the year.

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