Thursday 22 March 2018

Lego, pet power and rodents on show at the RDS

Mia Banton, Katie Alyward and Aisling Round studied birds of prey. Photo: Damien Eagers
Mia Banton, Katie Alyward and Aisling Round studied birds of prey. Photo: Damien Eagers
Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

Farm safety, breast-feeding and selfies are just some of the topics tackled by the scientists of tomorrow at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition.

As part of his project entitled 'Get a Grip with Lego', Daniel Fox, of St Benildus College in Dublin, discovered how the tiny interlocking bricks can suspend weights of up to 20kg without snapping apart.

The 14-year-old Lego fanatic said he couldn't wait to unveil his findings.

He said: "I'm feeling nervous, but I'm excited as well. I've been into Lego since I was three, and I've been coming to the Young Scientist for the last five years, so I just decided to do a project on Lego. When I started out, I thought I'd be measuring its strength in grams not kilos - it's incredibly powerful."

Elsewhere, friends Aisling Round (14), Mia Banton (14) and Katie Aylward (13), of Loreto Abbey Secondary School in Dublin, were hoping to wow the 83 judges after discovering a new species of rodent in Ireland as part of their examination into the diets of birds of prey.

"Last year, we did a project on barn owls and thought we found a field vole, but we didn't put it under a microscope or anything," explained Aisling.

"This year, we did, just to make sure, and we did find out that it was a field vole after contacting different professors from colleges.

"They're not native to Ireland - it's a new species," she added.

Elsewhere at the RDS, fellow Loreto Abbey students Eva Cullen (14) and Eve Brennan (14) from Dublin were investigating how more cuddly creatures could affect people's pain threshold.

In their project, called 'Pain vs Pets', the schoolgirls found how the presence of a therapy dog boosted volunteers' tolerance for discomfort.

"We heard a lot about pet therapy for people who are suffering from long-term pain and wanted to test if it has an immediate effect," said Eva.

"So we got [people] to put their hand in a bucket of ice water, just so they'd be in mild discomfort, and then we brought a dog from Irish Therapy Dogs in.

"We had two groups," added Eve.

"One group with the dog and one without the dog - they both did the same test. The group that was in the presence of the pet was able to hold their hand longer in the ice than those who weren't with the dog."

Irish Independent

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