Saturday 20 July 2019

Young scientists seek out a brighter tomorrow

Maria Herlihy

Students at Colaiste Treasa in Kanturk who took part in the BT Young Scientist Exhibition put forward hugely interesting projects which ranged from social and behavioural studies to detailed science research. 

Abby Reynolds, Ailish O'Hanlon and Aoife O'Brien won an award with their submission - What do you think of me? A statistical analysis of adolescents and elderly people's perceptions of ageing.

Abby Reynolds told The Corkman the group undertook surveys at their school with students aged between 13-17 coupled with discussions and surveys with the various TY groups. 

In addition, they keyed in on focus groups and also spoke to three elderly people in the region who were aged over 65. 

Ailish O'Hanlon said of their research they found that 60% of students believed that elderly people were hugely valuable to their community with over half of those surveyed saying they had an elderly person as a friend. This, she pointed out, wasn't always a relative. 

Aoife O'Brien said from their survey they found that females wanted to live longer but had "a fear of growing old". 

Hannah Walsh's project also won an award  - 'Diabetes - Don't sugar coat it, Improving the general population's understanding of Type 2 diabetes to support prevention'. 

She outlined that her mother, Ruth, has Type 2 diabetes and Hannah wanted to delve deeper into the States' educational programme and how that was embedded in society. In her research she found that 66% of those surveyed had a "poor knowledge" of diabetes and "educational material was lacking".  

Another project which was submitted and which won a category award was by Cillian O'Sullivan and David Grey. Their project was 'Reducing Toxic Heavy Metals in the Global Food Chain'.

Their project centred on cadmium, a metallic element that occurs naturally in the ground, and how humans are exposed to this mostly through plant derived food. 

They coated seeds with bacteria and they found it halted cadmium from entering the root of the plant. In one plate, they planted 90 seeds back in May and from their results they found that by using bacteria it removed cadmium by 31% on one batch while another strain of bacteria used on others removed it by 23% on average. 

The food groups that contribute most of the dietary cadmium exposure are cereals  and cereal products, vegetables, nuts and pulses along with starchy roots or potatoes and meat and meat products. 

Cadmium is regarded as being  toxic to the kidneys and can cause renal failure along with bone demineralisation. It is classified as a human carcinogen (group 1) on the basis of occupational studies. Newer data on human exposure to cadmium has indicated an increased risk of cancer, such as in the lung, bladder and breast. 

As pointed out by Cillian O'Sullivan, an EU directive has outlined that levels of cadmium need to be reduced in Ireland. He said they both enjoyed the project and it would encourage him to go down the research route after school. 

Dara O'Shea and Vivenne Field also put forward a project, 'The shape of you - the push and pull on body image accuracy in Irish adolescence'. Meanwhile, Ava Hynes and Katie Savage also won an award for their submission - 'A statistical analysis of the impact of playing golf on the self-esteem and well-being of female adolescents'. 

A special word of thanks was also given to the Science teachers at the school, which included  Maighread O' Leary, Joanne Corkery and Brid Anne O'Donoghue.