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Music and molluscs at cutting edge of science

FOURTEEN-year-old Mairin Ryan thought it was the "coolest" thing she had ever seen when a contestant appeared on stage playing a musical saw on the 'Britain's Got Talent' show.

It was only when she 'googled' the unusual musical instrument on the internet that she discovered there was no science on how it worked.

Her discovery prompted Mairin to do a project on the physics of the musical saw and enter it in this year's BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibition.

The second-year student at Our Lady's Bower secondary school in Athlone, Co Westmeath, who has been playing the violin from an early age, also learned to play the saw to get a better understanding of how it worked.

Yesterday, she demonstrated her newly found skill with an eerie musical saw rendition of 'Danny Boy' but insisted she won't be giving up the violin.

"The most important thing is the 'S' bend, the shape you bend the saw into which changes the pitch of the note," she explained.

"Any saw will do but the longer and more flexible it is, the easier it is to play but lots of practice and a musical ear helps."

Mairin's is one of 1,588 projects entered by 329 schools from north and south of the Border in this year's competition in the RDS, the 46th year of the event. Of those, 520 projects have been accepted to take part in the finals with the results announced tomorrow.

Eric Moore (15) is hoping to cut a clear path to a profitable career with his rechargeable battery-powered lawnmower.

The transition year student from Blackwater Community School in Waterford spent about six weeks building his lawnmower from scratch and has a patent pending on his hard work.


"Hopefully I'll some of the major companies interested and they might buy my idea," said Eric. "It's as good as a petrol mower but it has lower carbon emissions and is more cost-efficient."

The mower comes with a 12-volt battery which is recharged by a solar panel fitted to the frame and the machine cost him €257 to put together.

While Eric was hoping for a profitable outcome to his project, three 13-year-old girls were busy explaining the science behind making the perfect bowl of popcorn with minimal kernel wastage.

Countless bowls of the corn kernels have been cooked in the name of science over the past four months by Hannah Heeran, Hannah Collins and Seana Davis of the Dominican College in Wicklow. The secret, according to the girls, is in freezing the kernels before cooking them with a little oil in a saucepan.

Judges' panel chairperson Maureen Walkinshaw said the judges would be looking for original ideas and innovation among this year's participants.

"The standard is getting higher every year. This year there is more evidence of social networking in the projects being put forward and there is also an increased interest among this generation in crime scene investigation (CSI), she said.

Irish Independent