independent

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Balbriggan students science triumph

Balbriggan Loreto students win top prize at NI 'Big Bang fair' with science project on microbeads alternatives

Pictured with their awards from The Big Bang Fair NI incorporating Sentinus Young Innovators are Loreto College, Balbriggan pupils Zainab Shahid (left) and Katie Caffrey. Their respective project partners were unable to attend the event
Pictured with their awards from The Big Bang Fair NI incorporating Sentinus Young Innovators are Loreto College, Balbriggan pupils Zainab Shahid (left) and Katie Caffrey. Their respective project partners were unable to attend the event

John Manning

Loreto Secondary School Balbriggan students, Cleo Gallen and Zainab Shahid won the top prize at the recent Big Bang Fair NI incorporating Sentinus Young Innovators and will now represent the competition at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Anaheim, California with an all-expenses paid trip in May 2020.

Their project is focused on finding an environmentally friendly and biodegradable alternative to plastic microbeads which are used in various cosmetics and personal care products.

This results in them ending up in our rivers and oceans where they harm the marine life.

The project impressed the judges who believed it was trying to tackle a hugely significant and topical issue and as such was strong enough to compete in the global competition next year.

Meanwhile, fellow Loreto College students, Katie Caffrey and Eve Matthews were awarded the Young Scientists Overall Winner prize for their project on promoting healthier eating through taste innovation.

They received £200 and Trophy as well as a nomination to attend The UK wide Big Bang Competition in March 2020 which will take place at the Birmingham NEC.

The Balbriggan girls joined more than 3,000 young people from over 130 schools across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, during the exhibition at Ulster University's Jordanstown campus, one of the largest science and engineering events of its kind on the island and across the UK.

Students showcased their science projects solving real world problems and competed for a variety of prizes including the chance to the local competition at the Big Bang Fair in the UK and International Science and Engineering Fair in the USA.

The annual showcase celebrates the achievements of young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and centres on an exhibition of innovative and exciting science projects, based around real world problems and carried out by students from schools across the island of Ireland.

The event was organised by Sentinus, an educational charity working with more than 60,000 young people each year, from schools and colleges across Northern Ireland and further afield, delivering programmes that promote engagement in STEM and support the development of scientific and technological skills.

On the day, exhibitions of project work from primary, post-primary and further education students were displayed and judged by industry experts who volunteer their time as part of a commitment to progress the STEM agenda for Northern Ireland.

Alongside the exhibition and competition, school children were treated to a number of interactive workshops designed to bring science to life. This year saw 'The Next Giant Leap' by Scott Marley and 'To the Moon' by Neil Monteiro, with each putting their own creative spin on the wonders of science and engineering.

Employers, universities and industry bodies such as Queen's University, Ulster University, Atkins and The Royal Society of Chemistry were also on hand to provide valuable advice about pursuing a career in the STEM sectors.

Commenting on the event, Bill Connor, Sentinus Chief Executive said: 'A STEM literate society is considered vital to the long-term economic success of Northern Ireland and that these skills are considered a necessity to enable us compete in a truly global and connected marketplace.

'This flagship event is a culmination of a lot of our work with schools over the past year which is designed to encourage and develop an interest in STEM subjects and skills among our young people.

'With the recent report from the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) showing a low number of girls in NI studying computing, it is important we tackle the cultural stereotyping of computer users and bridge the STEM gender gap.

'By challenging misconceptions about women and science, we can help encourage more girls to consider pursuing STEM subjects.

'There is growing demand for STEM skills, particularly for sectors such as engineering, construction and manufacturing, and it's essential that gender is no barrier to ensuring that all young people have the knowledge and skills to succeed.'

Fingal Independent

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