Amid a series of controlled balloon explosions and dramatic puffs of dry ice, the BT Young Scientist was launched with a bang – and another record-breaking year with a record number of entries
The iconic event now in its 53rd year, will see students address social issues such as the global migrant crisis as well as striving to make innovations in the digital sphere.
It’s a far cry from the very first Young Scientist Exhibition held at the Mansion House in 1965 – which saw 17 year old John Monahan from Kildare win for his project in demonstrating chemical reactions during digestion.
Currently Vice-President of Research and Development at the cutting edge Synthetic Biologics in California, Dr Monahan is also a judge of this year’s competition.
“He’ll get off his plane on Wednesday and come straight to the exhibition,” confirmed Shay Walsh, Managing Director of BT Ireland, paying tribute to Dr Monahan’s long-standing commitment to the Exhibition down the years.
Mr Walsh said this is yet another record-breaking year for the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, with the highest number of entries to date, with over 2,900 projects. Just 550 of these projects will be exhibited at the RDS due to space restraints.
“The quality of the projects on show this year is extraordinary,” Mr Walsh said.
The projects span four categories – Technology, Biological & Ecological, Social & Behavioural Sciences and Chemical, Physical and Mathematical Sciences.
Margot Moore (13) a first year student at Loretto College Foxrock, Co Dublin took part in a project based on binocular vision. The students found that reading and writing skills are improved when one eye is covered with an eye patch, she explained, while balance and judgement were not altered in any way by the covering of one eye.
She said they hadn’t found out why but thought that it could be that it is easier to focus with one eye while wearing an eye patch.
Also at Loretto Foxrock, Aimee O’Neill (12) took part in a project titled The Great Gluten Free Bake Off.
Students tried to find a cake most similar to a plain ‘control’ cake baked in the usual way with ‘normal’ flour.
They found that a cake baked with gluten-free flour but without the recommended stabiliser produced a tastier result – but the cake hardened more quickly, she said.
In tests, 59pc picked the ‘control’ cake while 41pc picked the gluten-free option, said Aimee.
“That was surprising because it was so close,” she added.
President Michael D Higgins will officially open the exhibition at a special ceremony tomorrow, with the ceremony streamed live on Facebook from 2pm.
The winner will be announced on Friday and presented with a cheque for €5,000, the BTYSTE perpetual trophy and a trip to the European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands.
Founder of the Young Scientist Exhibition Dr Tony Scott, who attended the launch, said they had expected the entries to ‘plateau’ over the years but this has not happened – with more and more entries every year.
“It says something for the young people that they want to explore science and the excitement of science,” he said.
He said the success of the Exhibition is ‘a four legged stool’ supported by the young people themselves, teachers, parents and sponsors.
“If one of these fails, it falls down,” he said.
Asked if he felt proud of what he had created, he corrected: “It’s not what I created, it’s what the young people created.”
The early years were very different, he said, quipping that some of the entries then would not make it in to the exhibition today.
And he said the development of things like the computer and the growth of science can be charted in the catalogues of entries.
There had been too many standout projects to mention, said Dr Scott – but particularly recalled Ronan McNulty – currently another judge in the contest – who had entered as a schoolboy in 1985 with a project which had managed to print the music of his father, a blind composer, as it was played via a simple ‘zx’ computer.
“Ronan still has that very equipment,” said Dr Scott.