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Monday 19 November 2018

Young Scientists explore how kiwis help you to sleep - and how to fight blindness

Clodagh Clarke and Abbie Cassidy, first-year students from Ringsend College, play with liquid nitrogen at the launch of the competition. Photo: Colm Mahady
Clodagh Clarke and Abbie Cassidy, first-year students from Ringsend College, play with liquid nitrogen at the launch of the competition. Photo: Colm Mahady
Students will be hoping to emulate 2017 Young Scientist winner Shane Curran, from Terenure College. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The hot cup of milk is an insomnia remedy almost as old as time itself - but how about ditching it for a kiwi?

Investigating everything from the surprisingly snooze-inducing benefits of the hairy green fruit as a late-night snack, to the effects of mobile phones on academic performance, budding young scientists have all the bases covered.

The 54th BT Young Scientist & Technology exhibition at the RDS will kick off today with an official ceremony presided over by President Michael D Higgins and streamed live online.

Organisers have said the standard continues to soar, with projects focusing on pressing societal issues like homelessness and its impact on families and children attending school, the burning topic of 'fake news', as well as problems like anxiety which many students face.

Jennifer Kestell (14) and Ella Jones (14), second-year students from St Joseph of Cluny school in Killiney, Co Dublin, were investigating the development of an app that can detect eye disease in underdeveloped countries, with a focus on glaucoma. "There are 5.88 million people in Africa with avoidable blindness," explained Jennifer.

Their prototype app can take a family history of eye disease and give risk factors. "But a camera feature would need to be fitted to make it most effective," said Ella.

Meanwhile, Andrew McWeeney (14), a second-year student at Castleknock College, Dublin, looked at the topic of fruit - including the benefits of each particular type. His 'smoothie table' outlines delicious-sounding combos for maximum health benefit - such as grapes and pears for stroke risk, and kiwis for better sleep.

Read More: Students shocked to find errors on air charts used by coast guard teams

His poll found that only 34pc of students ate fruit three times a week, with many eating far less.

"I found that people don't understand the benefits of eating fruit," said Andrew.

Other intriguing projects included an investigation by Conan Harrison Quility, Erik Adamczyk and Tadgh Sheehan of Comeragh College in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, on whether phone usage has an impact on the grades of students, as well as an invention by Limerick student Liam O'Mara, a second-year student from Castletroy College, who developed a device to help spot potential concussion injuries in sport. Known as Hel-mate, the small box would attach to the back of a helmet and identify impacts which cross a certain g-force threshold, alerting the team medic.

First-year students Clodagh Clarke (13) and Abbie Cassidy (12), from Ringsend College, Dublin, will be showing their findings on the causes and treatment of anxiety in students. They found out many students reported feeling stressed and anxious in school - with boys more worried about tests and exams, while girls worried more about loneliness or stress at home. "Talking is the best thing that helps," said Abbie.

Shay Walsh, managing Director of BT Ireland, said the show continued to improve each year and topics reflected the natural curiosity of students in what was going on in the world around them.

Tony Scott, founder of the Young Scientist exhibition said he had never expected the event to go on as long as it had. "The enthusiasm shown by the students is something we have to capture and bottle," he said.

Problems like climate change and plastics in the seas were difficulties we had created for ourselves, he said, adding that this current generation of young students would be the ones to find a solution.

And among those attending will be the winners of the Young Scientist exhibition in Tanzania - which is modelled on the Irish event, Tony revealed. The group, which won with a project on smoke alarms, will be meeting the Ei smoke alarm compan‑y in Shannon, Co Clare, to discuss their findings.

Irish Independent

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