President Higgins urges Young Scientists to share their knowledge with the world

President Michael D Higgins has urged Ireland’s budding scientists to share their knowledge with those in other parts of the world who need it, writes Evelyn Ring. 

President Higgins urges Young Scientists to share their knowledge with the world

"Technology transfer is a crucial part of our shared response to our global interdependence and common vulnerability," he said.

His hope is that the young people would treat scientific and technological innovation as a global common good — to be enjoyed by all those who live on this ‘fragile planet’.

The President officially opened the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in the RDS yesterday.

Now in its 53rd year, the event is one of the longest running of its kind in the world.

A total of 550 projects were accepted to take part this year in the finals and, for the third year in a row, there were more qualified project entries from Cork (125) schools than from Dublin (84).

Maths behind Cork accent

Transition-year student Andrew Nash, from Coláiste Mhuire, Crosshaven, Co Cork, with his project. Picture: Dave Meehan
Transition-year student Andrew Nash, from Coláiste Mhuire, Crosshaven, Co Cork, with his project. Picture: Dave Meehan

A teenager has analysed the Cork accent using a combination of mathematics and technology.

Transition-year student Andrew Nash, 16, of Coláiste Mhuire, Crosshaven, Co Cork, wanted to find out what makes the Cork accent unique.

His project — ‘Modelling the Mathematics of the Cork Accent’ — is one of 550 from all over the country on display at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS in Dublin this week.

He analysed the accent, derived mathematical functions that defined it, created a mapping function between the Cork and other accents, and tested its predictability.

Andrew used two samples — a Cork-accented voice and a Dublin-accented voice, both sourced from recordings collected by linguist Professor Raymond at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

“I found that the Cork pronunciations were slower to rise to a peak amplitude — the highest point in the word, than Dublin pronunciations in their waveform representations,” Andrew explained.

His research focussed on just 55 words from two speakers so he could not definitively say what he discovered applied to all Dublin and Cork accents.

Nevertheless, the methodology Andrew used could be used to improve voice activity technology and he hopes to take his project further.

“New voice recognition engines are becoming to mainstream technology and I have an interest in maths and technology,” he said.

Under-performing turbines spark idea

Second-year student Joseph O’Donoghue, of St Joseph’s College, Tipperary, with his ‘Solar Sleeve’ project. Picture: Dave Meehan
Second-year student Joseph O’Donoghue, of St Joseph’s College, Tipperary, with his ‘Solar Sleeve’ project. Picture: Dave Meehan

A young student got a bright idea when his father complained that the wind turbines on his farm were not generating enough energy over the summer.

Joseph O’Donoghue’s family have two wind turbines on their farm in Templederry, near Borrisoleigh in North Tipperary.

The second-year student at St Joseph’s College in Borrisoleigh showed how solar panels could double the functionality of the turbine — the solar panels would power 56 homes in Ireland.

“One day I heard my dad complaining that the wind turbines were not being used to their full potential and that gave me the idea for my project — ‘Solar Sleeve’,” said the 13-year-old.

He worked out a way of adding solar panels to the tower turbines to increase the amount of electricity being added to the national grid.

“A grid connection can cost up to a €1m, and you could have to wait up to 10 years to get one,” Joseph said.

“A wind farm already has a grid connection so putting solar panels on the towers would save time and money.”

Joseph’s science teacher, Mary Gorey, said he did not need a lot of help in completing the project for the exhibition.

“He was happy to go up to the wind farm every day and take the results himself. He was very into it and a pleasure to work with.”

Ms Gorey said it was her third year to accompany students from the school to the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in the RDS in Dublin. Joseph’s project was one of six to be included in the 550 on display this week.

Another project that made it to the finals was ‘Ultra Vision’ — sensor glasses, developed by Kerry student Timothy McGrath, to help blind people avoid obstacles.

They were designed by Timothy McGrath, 14-year-old, a third-year student at Killorglin Community College, has been working on the project for a year.

He has developed the glasses to a point where the sensors are concealed in the frame.

Timothy said the glasses would not be expensive either — a pair could cost around €50 to produce.

He got the idea for the glasses when walking home from school one day.

“There is a blind person who lives in our town, and I saw him bump into a wing mirror sticking out of a car. He had problems with temporary obstacles and obstacles sticking out of the ground.”

Junior students fitter than senior students

Holly Meaney and Eimear Power from Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School, Waterford, at the RDS. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins
Holly Meaney and Eimear Power from Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School, Waterford, at the RDS. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

Limerick students found that third-year pupils in their school are the fittest of them all.

Three transition-year students from Coláiste Ide and Iosef in Limerick — Aoife Curtin, Ciara Hunt, and Emily Pierse, tested fitness in different groups of students.

“We found that those in third year were much fitter than those in any other year,” said Aoife.

The three 16-year-olds also found that those in third year, unlike the older students, spent nearly all year playing a sport outside of school.

Seven out of ten of the students take part in a sporting activity and soccer was by far the most popular — 62% of the students tested played the game.

Their science and physical education teacher, Maria McMahon, said the girls found that the pressure of exams at senior cycle had a negative impact on fitness levels.

“We were able to find out that junior students were fitter than senior students; boys are fitter than girls, and soccer was the most physically demanding sport,” said Aoife.

“We were surprised at the differences in fitness levels between the junior and senior students.”

Ciara said they intended presenting the results to their school principal.

“We hope to make physical education compulsory for the Leaving Certificate cycle in our school because we have seen a deterioration in the students’ fitness levels from third year.”

There has been some discussion about making PE a Leaving Certificate subject in the next few years. Like any other subject on the curriculum, students will be able to earn points from studying PE. Emily said they had clearly demonstrated that this must happen.

Judging at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition continues today when doors open to all schools and the general public. The overall winner will be announced tomorrow evening.

Apart from the participating students, up to 50,000 visitors are expected to view the exhibits and enjoy the shows from World of Robots, Titan the Robot, and David Meade.

The overall winner, or winners, of the competition will receive a cheque for €5,000 and the chance to represent Ireland at the 30th EU Competition for Young Scientists in Estonia later this year.

Judges seek enthusiasm, energy, and imagination

Enthusiasm, imagination, energy, and, of course, good science.

That’s what the judges are looking for among projects on display at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS in Dublin.

Leonard Hobbs, originally from Cork, is head of the competition’s technology competition. He spent more than two decades with Intel and now runs his own consultancy company, TechRD, in Rathcoffey, Co Kildare.

“There was no technology category in the competition until I took it on 18 years ago,” he said.

“Technology is about innovation and science is about discovery and it is wonderful to see the two co-exist in the same competition.”

Mr Hobbs loves technology and is really in his element when he sees young people coming to the exhibition to showcase their work.

“The standard improves every year and I guess that is because the number of entries is increasing.”

This year a record 2,091 projects and 375 schools entered the competition, up from 2,048 entries and 396 schools last year. However, the number of projects taking part in the finals has to be restricted to 550 because of the size of the hall.

“Several years ago there were empty spaces in the hall because some projects did not show up. That never happens now,” said Mr Hobbs. And he rarely finds that a project is not really up to the mark. “All of the projects I see now are good. It is the exceptional ones that bubble up to the top and, ultimately, win the big prizes.”

One of the goals of the competition is to encourage young people to choose STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and maths courses at when they go to university and Mr Hobbs has no doubt it is doing just that.”Looking at these kids, I think Ireland is doing extraordinarily well,” he said.

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