Two students from Ovens in Cork, who were curious about why their female classmates were less likely to study STEM subjects, have taken home the top prize at a Europe-wide science contest for their research.
Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan, sixth-year students at Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig, Cork, have taken home the top prize at the 32nd European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) for their work studying and combating gender bias.
After winning the BT Young Scientist in 2020, the friends went on to speak at the Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality, and have been working with different companies on initiatives to combat gender stereotypes.
"We’re thrilled, just absolutely thrilled,” Cormac said, speaking to theafter their win.
Their research began while in transition year when they noticed the majority of students choosing STEM subjects were boys, and the majority of students choosing non-STEM subjects like home economics or art were girls.
“We wondered why this gender divide exists at this age because we all had the exact same education growing up," Alan explained.
Their research led them to look at children at the start of their education. Almost 380 pupils between the ages of 5 and 7 took part in six research activities. They were asked to draw a picture of an engineer and give their engineer a name:
"This proved to us that girls are not limiting either gender's ability, however, boys are limiting of girls’ ability. This shows us that more initiatives need to be put in place to combat the growth of gender stereotyping."
Both friends have strongly encouraged students to take part in this year's BT Young Scientist competition. The deadline to apply this year is Monday September 27 at 5pm.
This year's EUCYS, was hosted virtually in Salamanca, Spain this weekend, with competitors from 39 countries across Europe and the world. Due to the pandemic, this year’s event brought together contestants from 2020 and 2021.
Gregory Tarr, from Bandon, also took home third prize for his technology project focusing on detecting state-of-the-art deep fakes.
Gregory won the BT Young Scientist 2021 competition while a student at Bandon Grammar School, with a project that uses artificial intelligence to detect “deepfake” videos which have become harmful in spreading disinformation across social media channels. He is the founder of Inferex.