Saturday 19 January 2019

Young science stars turn food waste into cutlery, grow plants on moon and help improve memory

Alice Sexton (15) from Sacred Heart Secondary School, Cork, with her project, ‘Fear-free foraging’. Photo: Damien Eagers
Alice Sexton (15) from Sacred Heart Secondary School, Cork, with her project, ‘Fear-free foraging’. Photo: Damien Eagers
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

As pressure mounts to find ways to eliminate single-use plastic, two innovative students may have found one answer after developing a way of turning food waste into cutlery for everyday use.

It was just one of the many futuristic ideas on show as thousands filtered in and out of the RDS for day two of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Aoife McMahon (15) and Rachel Ingle (14), from Santa Sabina Dominican College in Dublin, had the idea to turn food waste into bioplastics.

"We used starch-based food waste - mainly potatoes - to create our own 'plastic' and we tested for biodegradability and it is 100pc biodegradable," Aoife explained.

The ingredients used were also proven to be waterproof, with the main food waste used including vinegar, vanilla extract and potato peelings. Upon turning this into plastic, this can be initially used as packaging and when this is melted down and recycled can be turned into cutlery. The pair are hoping to come together with their school canteen to provide bioplastic cutlery.

Another pair of innovative students, Oisín Brady Halmschlag and Kevin Lawlor from Coláiste Chiaráin in Limerick, have devised a plan using a hydroponic system to grow plants on the moon - in order to sustain human life there. The system will avoid the transport of heavy compost.

"If we manage to set up a habitat on the moon, it would be a huge step for mankind and also a stepping stone for getting to Mars," said Oisín.

A study entitled 'Shut Your Mouth' by Edel Connolly, Rebecca Harring and Nell Coppinger, from Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí, Cork, has found exercising by breathing through your nose is far more beneficial than through your mouth and speeds up recovery time much quicker.

Aoife McMahon (13) and Rachel Ingle (14) from Santa Sabina Dominican College, Dublin, with ‘An investigation into making food waste into bio plastic’. Photo: Damien Eagers
Aoife McMahon (13) and Rachel Ingle (14) from Santa Sabina Dominican College, Dublin, with ‘An investigation into making food waste into bio plastic’. Photo: Damien Eagers

Meanwhile, Anna O'Connor (17), from St Angela's College in Cork, has put together a solar-powered device for use in the education of children in developing countries.

"It doesn't need any electricity or wifi to work and it uses a solar panel and a lead acid battery from an alarm," Anna said.

Fifth-year student Maeve Kenny, from Scoil Mhuire in Trim, Co Meath, said a wearable memory device she has created will help decrease issues of anxiety among people who worry about forgetting basic things on a daily basis. The necklace can be flipped when you undertake your action, to prevent second guessing across the day.

Feedback she has received from the Living Well with Dementia group in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown was the device "would be very useful".

Among all the school children presenting their projects and checking out the exhibits were a host of politicians.

Among them was Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton, who was well aware that almost 20pc of the projects on show related directly to his portfolio. "It's young people who will tell older people, not just politicians, but all of the people who have to change their lifestyles, how this can be done," he said.

Irish Independent

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