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Friday 22 September 2017

Turning bananas to nylon and milk to plastic... the future's in safe hands

Haritha Olaganathan from Adamstown Community College Dublin and her project Go Bananas! Using Banana Peel for Eco-Friendly and Low-Cost Nylon Production. Photo Karl Hussey / Fennell Photography
Haritha Olaganathan from Adamstown Community College Dublin and her project Go Bananas! Using Banana Peel for Eco-Friendly and Low-Cost Nylon Production. Photo Karl Hussey / Fennell Photography

Ryan Nugent

If the magic of science that turns milk into plastic or banana skins into nylon doesn't inspire you, then how about the young Traveller who is investigating a future without doctors or nurses?

Galway's Ian McDonagh (15) stole the show on day two of the BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibition.

Ian McDonagh from Merlin College Galway and his project 'A Scientific Investigation of the Cures and Folkways of the Irish Traveller'
Ian McDonagh from Merlin College Galway and his project 'A Scientific Investigation of the Cures and Folkways of the Irish Traveller'

He even had the chance to show former health minister and current Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin how the current trolley crisis might be solved.

It was all through the means of a scientific investigation into the cures and folkways of the Irish Traveller.

The Merlin College pupil is of the belief that some 29 different illnesses can be cured without the use of a doctor or nurse.

In his second year as the first and only member of the Travelling community exhibiting at the 53-year-old event, Ian explained that he wanted his representation to make a difference.

Jospeh O Donighue from St Josephs College Tipperary with project Solar Sleeve during the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition at the RDS, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Jospeh O Donighue from St Josephs College Tipperary with project Solar Sleeve during the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition at the RDS, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

"There have been visitors from schools who are from the Travelling community, but there was no one ever here presenting their project to the public," Ian said. "You can't hide your identity, I'm really proud of who I am, so I think Traveller children should go on to third level education, they should go on and mix with the bigger society. Don't always stick together, go in and work with all nationalities."

It says it all that he seemed to have the capabilities to inspire just as confidently as former Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand - a distinguished guest on the day.

Ferdinand - who grew up in the working-class area of Peckham, South London - insisted that anyone can achieve once they put in the hard graft and application.

The former England international has set up the Rio Ferdinand Foundation, which has a partnership with BT and looks to involve everybody.

Sadhbh NiDhubshlaine, Emer Butler Litster and Sarah Lalor from Avondale Community College Wicklow and their project 'Can milk be turned into plastic?' Photo Karl Hussey / Fennell Photography
Sadhbh NiDhubshlaine, Emer Butler Litster and Sarah Lalor from Avondale Community College Wicklow and their project 'Can milk be turned into plastic?' Photo Karl Hussey / Fennell Photography

But back to the banana skins, and the very talented Haritha Olaganathan (13) from Adamstown Community College, Lucan, Co Dublin.

Forget environmentally friendly cars and houses, and think of eco-friendly nylon.

Used to make garden hoses, clothes and even the bristles on your tooth brush, Haritha explained that we need to find a way that makes nylon safer for the environment. Luckily, she's found an alternative.

"Nylon is an extremely versatile material, it is found in a lot of things we use every day... but the production of nylon is not eco-friendly, in fact it emits nitrous oxide which is 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide," she said. "From one yellow banana peel I can yield approximately 10ml of nylon."

Footballer Rio Ferdinand on the RTÉ set at the BTYSTE 2017 at the RDS, Dublin. Photo:Brian McEvoy
Footballer Rio Ferdinand on the RTÉ set at the BTYSTE 2017 at the RDS, Dublin. Photo:Brian McEvoy

And then there are the three Wicklow girls who investigated if milk could be turned into plastic.

Eimer Butler Litster (15), Sarah Lalor (16) and Sadhbh Ni Dhubshláine (16) of Avondale Community College found it possible.

"We realised that there was so much excess milk being produced in Ireland and we wanted a solution to use up the waste milk," Eimer said.

"We came up with the idea to turn milk into casein plastic," she said, adding that it's entirely biodegradable.

If these exhibits are anything to go by, the future is in safe hands... and minds.

The winners of the competition will be announced this evening.

Irish Independent

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