Two transition year students from Co Cork have won the top prize at the 2020 BT Young Scientists & Technology Exhibition for their research on gender bias in young children.
Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan from Colaiste Choilm were named the BT Young Scientists for 2020.
The award was presented by Education Minister Joe McHugh and BT young scientist managing director Shay Walsh at RDS in Dublin on Friday evening.
The young scientists, both aged 16, were recognised for their project which explored gender stereotyping in 5-7 year olds.
“We’re completely shocked...we’re thrilled," Cormac said.
“We’re absolutely delighted because in the world we think there’s a huge issue of gender stereotyping,” said Alan.
“I think it’s great that people are recognising the stereotyping issue,” he added.
Their project indicated that gender stereotyping emerges in young children, especially boys.
"What we found from our project was that girls weren’t limiting either gender’s ability aged 5-7, however we found that boys were limiting girls ability at this age," said Cormac.
“Based on our results, we developed a school based kit to help combat gender stereotyping. It was great fun,” he said.
The boys surveyed 267 across many schools across the country. They said that they hope to go back to schools and implement the resource kit.
The Cork school was also home to the winners of the main award in 2018.
The BT Young Scientist of the Year Trophy comes with a cheque for €7,500 and the chance to represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists.
Minister McHugh told students that each year the awards are "an indication and an insight as to where we are as a society in terms of where our young people are at.”
“I want to thank you and acknowledge that you have earned your place as part of the history of the exhibition,” he told the audience.
“We live in each other’s shadows and you live in the shadows of great scientists that went before you,” he added.
Cormac and Alan's teacher Karina Lyne said she “couldn’t believe it”.
“I can’t believe that for them for all the work and the passion they had for that project that they got this accolade, it’s unbelievable.
“I didn’t expect this. They had a different title at first and I said no so they went away and researched it and came back with this title and I said yes,” she added.
Both boys are from Ovens in County Cork and have been friends since they were young,” said Cormac’s mum Colette Murphy.
“Himself and Alan have been friends since they were in Junior Infants and it’s fantastic that they did it together.
“They got a lot of support from mentors and experts in fields who kindly gave their time and it made a huge difference in their projects,” added Ms Murphy.
“Their mothers have a good dynamic as well,” Cormac’s dad Kevin Harris.
Mari and Denis O’Sullivan, Alan’s parents, said that Alan has always had an interest in science and STEM subjects.
“We would have come to the Young Scientist years ago.
“Alan wants to do computer science and there’s a few courses that he’s interested in,” said Mrs O’Sullivan.
“He set up a little website so that teachers could use it so there’s a lot of resources on it, so he’s a particular interest in the STEM side of things.”
Cormac and Alan said they chose the topic as they are in Transition Year and are due to choose subjects for their senior cycle.
“We saw that more girls were choosing subjects like Art and Home Ec, and boys were choosing STEM subjects like Physics or Construction and DCG,” said Cormac.
“So we were wondering where did this divide come from? So we decided that the best way to find out was to go right back to the beginning, to senior infants and first class and to carry out some tests to see what their views on gender stereotyping are,” added Alan.
Oscar Despard (17) from Sandyford Park in Dublin was awarded the Best Individual award and received the The BT Trophy and a €2,400 cheque.
Ava Hynes (14) from Colaiste Treasa in Cork was awarded the individual runner up award and Cathal O’Meara and James O’Malley from Castletroy College in Limerick, both 13, were runners up and received the BT Trophy and a €1,200 cheque.
The award for the best overall school in the Republic of Ireland was presented to Kinsale Community school, while St Patrick’s college in Dunganon in Tyrone took the title for the best of Northern Ireland.
This is the 56th year of the exhibition and there were 550 projects on display throughout the three days.
Some 1,000 students from 244 schools across the country exhibited their awards.
Over 60pc of these projects were climate change orientated and two thirds of exhibits submitted were by girls.
There were 120 awards presented to students with project who were picked out by the judges.
The exhibition attracts 50,000 visitors each year in Dublin’s RDS arena.