Background
CorkYoungScientists

Scientific hat-trick winners Sophie Healy-Thow 17 yrs, 16-year-olds Ciara Judge and Emer Hickey have been chosen Cork Persons of the Month.  Their names now also go forward, with the other Persons of Month chosen this year, for possible selection as Cork Persons of the Year at a gala awards lunch on January 16th next.

The Kinsale Community School pupils won this year’s BT Young Scientist, EU Young Scientist and the top prize at the Google Science Fair in San Francisco, beating thousands of entries from around the world.

The trio investigated how natural bacteria could be used as a growth aid for crops as part of their project “Natural Bacteria Combating World Hunger”.

Working from home over the last three years, the girls did an extensive study on how the bacteria “diazotroph” affects germination rates and found that it increased crop growth by up to 50% and barley yields by as much as 74%. These results have significant potential for increasing crop yield, providing a possible solution to food shortages in developing countries.  It could also reduce the footprint agriculture has on the environment by reducing fertiliser needs.

Kinsale Community School Deputy Principal Kathleen O’Brien said that the three girls were inspirational to women, the science community and the country, and their work has the potential to solve the global food crisis.

“They are also highlighting the education system and raising the profile of Ireland as a country with a high skill base in science” added Ms O’Brien.

Time Magazine has named the girls as three of the top 25 influential teenagers in the world, along with people like Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzal who was shot by Taliban gunmen for promoting girls education.

“The trio from Kinsale Community School are now working on commercializing their discovery of using Diazotroph, a bacteria that sucks nitrogen from the atmosphere into soil, speeding up the germination of cereal crops and – more importantly – increasing their yield,” said Time Magazine.

BTYSTESanFran2014

Three Irish students have won a global science research competition at the GoogleScience Fair 2014 in San Francisco. Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow from Kinsale Community School, Cork were named the grand prize winner in the 15 to 16-year-old age category for a project which examined the use of natural bacteria to increase crop output. They were inspired to try and help improve food production, particularly in third world countries, after learning about a famine in the Horn of Africa in 2011.

The basis of their project focuses on a naturally occurring bacteria in soil called Diazotroph. Their research showed that if Diazotroph is present, it accelerates the germination process of high-value crops such as barley and oats, potentially boosting output by up to 50 per cent. Using naturally occurring Rhizobium strains of the Diazotroph bacteria family, they carried out an extensive study of their impact on the germination rate and subsequent growth of the cereal crops wheat, oats and barley. Detailed statistical analysis of their results indicated that these bacterial strains accelerated crop germination by up to 50 per cent and increased barley yields by 74 per cent. Such a cereal crop performance improvement could significantly assist combating the growing global food poverty challenge and benefit the environment by reducing fertilizer use.

The Irish students are previous winners in the 2013 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition and have competed in the EU Contest for Young Scientists. They were among five global finalists for their age category selected from thousands of submissions by students in more than 90 countries.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Emer (16) said they worked on the project for three years. “We did a lot of experimental work in Ciara’s house. First we took over the spare room, [AND]then expanded into the kitchen, sitting room, conservatory, and the garden.. We tested over 13,000 seeds. It was quite a lot of work but it has really been worth it,” she said.

Sophie (17) described the prizes the trio have won as “absolutely amazing”. “We get to go on an exhibition with National Geographic to the Galápagos Islands. We get $50,000 towards our project and a $25,000 scholarship. It’s absolutely insane.”

Another part of the girls’ prize will see them undertake astronaut training with Virgin Galactic.

“We’ll be trained as airforce civilians going on a trip to outer space. It is part of Richard Branson’s project to commercialise space travel. [WE ARE]really excited about that.… It’s not even about the prize, just getting recognition for all our hard work,” said 16-year-old Ciara.

Asked about their plans for the next few days, Emer said they were going to celebrate for the next few days but are “ looking forward to going home and meeting our friends, going back to school and in the long run we are definitely going to continue the project and try to commercialise it in whatever way we can. Then we can really begin to change the world.”

young scientist 2014

A Dublin student who found answers to previously unsolved mathematical problems has won the 50th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS. Paul Clarke undertook months of research into complex mathematical theory to become the young scientist of the year.

Paul Clarke of St Paul’s College in Raheny, Dublin wanted to do something new, solve mathematical problems linked to a concept known as cyclic graph theory. “I am looking at a number of unsolved problems in graph theory,” the 17-year-old fifth year explained. Graph theory provides a mathematical way to look at structured data, structured in the way data points are captured in a graph.

While graph theory is difficult it is extremely useful in a number of ways, Paul explained. It helps computers build complex models of experimental drugs or proteins, and can be used to solve puzzles like the “travelling salesman” that optimises the route that should be taken to visit a number of points in the least possible distance.

“It was demanding and needed dedication and motivation,” he acknowledged. For example he might pursue a possible answer but discover a month on that it would not work, particularly because the problems were “unsolved and hard”.

Paul received the BT Young Scientist of 2014 perpetual trophy, a cheque for €5,000 and the chance to represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists.

To find out about the other winners and more on the Exhibition, check out www.btyoungscientist.ie

BTYSTE 50th

In 1963 two physics researchers from the University College Dublin, Rev. Dr. Tom Burke and Dr. Tony Scott, came across the concept of ‘Science Fairs’ while conducting research in New Mexico, America. The pair decided that this type of hands-on science was something that students in Ireland could benefit from. And so the Young Scientist Exhibition was born.

Now in it’s 50th year, registration for the 2014 exhibition kicked off this afternoon and the winners will be announced in the RDS on Friday 10th January. Projects this year include a study into how our changing laundry habits could be causing E.coli infection, the development of “Moo Boots” to help heal bacterial infections that cause foot rot in cattle, and an investigation into how the principles of Lego building blocks might be able to help people trapped in crisis zones after an earthquake!

In series one of The Science Squad, we tracked down 3 former participants to find out what kind of impact the event has had on their careers, and met one former winner who’s now working on the greatest physics experiment the world has ever known! Check it out by clicking here

And for more on the BTYSTE check out www.btyoungscientist.ie

bt-young-scientist-winners

The 49th annual BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibitions gets under way this morning with almost 2,000 students descending on the RDS in Dublin to set up their projects.

Judging begins this afternoon, after an opening ceremony, and winning projects will be announced on Friday evening.

There will be plenty of activity between now and then, however, including a battle royal between a Dalek from Dr Who and Star Wars’ R2D2, the toughest pint-sized robots of all time. They form part of the popular World of Robots show which makes a return to the RDS.

For more click here

bt-young-scientist-winners

TWO DUBLIN students have been awarded a European young scientist prize for their mathematical project that could be of value to Nasa.

Mark Kelly and Eric Doyle from Synge Street CBS, Dublin, were announced as winners of the first prize in physics at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Bratislava, Slovakia, yesterday.

The winning project, Simulation Accuracy in the Gravitational Many-body Problem, included a way to help keep satellites more closely on their expected path.

Ireland has out-performed all other countries in the EU competition’s 24-year history, taking home the top prize 14 times.

For more click here