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Wicklow's 40 young scientists


Saoirse O'Reilly (left) and Rachael Milea  with Lucy the German Mastiff. Dominican College Wicklow, "The Nose Knows," Young Scientist Project

Saoirse O'Reilly (left) and Rachael Milea with Lucy the German Mastiff. Dominican College Wicklow, "The Nose Knows," Young Scientist Project

Saoirse O'Reilly (left) and Rachael Milea with Lucy the German Mastiff. Dominican College Wicklow, "The Nose Knows," Young Scientist Project


Wicklow is poised to make an impression at this year's BT Young Scientist Exhibition which runs this week at the RDS.

Eight schools in County Wicklow are taking part in this year's show with 22 entries compiled by 40 students, with the support of their teachers.

One of the most unusual projects comes courtesy of Dominican College, Wicklow, entitled 'The nose knows... Biometric analysis of dog nose prints'.

Students Rachael Millea and Saoirse O'Reilly have spent time trying to prove whether or not each dog has a unique 'nose print' akin to a human fingerprint.

'Looking closely at a dog's nose it is possible to see lines forming patterns. This raises the question - could a dog be identified by its nose print? The answer is yes - dog nose prints have been used by the Canadian kennel club since 1938 to identify dogs and has also been used in America. Using nose prints is a very reliable way to identify dogs and is much better than other forms of dog identification which include the use of a microchip being implanted in the dog. Many pet owners feel this is an invasive and painful way of keeping track of their dogs. Microchips can also malfunction, and even become dislodged, rendering the chip useless,' explained Rachael and Saoirse.

Their project includes development of an App which can be used by dog owners to upload their dog nose print to add to a database.

'There are several important reasons for the research outlined. One being that it would help to return lost pets to their owners. Another important use for identification would be for forensics to determine the identity and ownership of an animal involved in property damage or personal injury. If extended to sheep and other animals, this method of identification would negate the need for tagging animals, which can be invasive to them,' they added

Dominican College students have submitted six of the 22 entries to this year's Young Scientist event, under the supervision of teacher John O'Brien.

Jade Duffy and Lauren Fahey hope 'to identify and observe exoplanet transits visible during October to January using the Watcher robotic telescope located in South Africa' while Water desalination by sapwood was the focus of Nicole Devitt and Aine Cahill's exhibit.

Eva Phelan and Molly Flood turned their attention on health and fitness by investigating if having and using a pedometer can cause people over 60 years to be more fitness aware.

Whether or not there is a correlation between pupil dilation and physical effort or perceived physical effort was examined by Rhian Drennan and Aoibhe Drennan while mental number sense in animals, namely chickens was assessed by Lauren Ryan and Lucy Phelan.

Six projects from Avondale Community College, mentored by teacher Aoife Sullivan have also made it through to the national final

'An Investigation into the Effects Weather has on Cereal Crop Yields in Ireland over a Ten Year Period' is the project of Mary Kate Condren who carried out her research project in conjunction with Teagasc and Met Éireann to investigate if a correlation exists between increasing spring barley yields and the weather it has been exposed to.

Sean Byrne focused on the exposure of workers to harmful chemicals for his exhibit and looked at levels in some motor factors and beauty salons.

An analysis of how worm concentration has a direct effect on the badger concentration which in turn affects the TB rates is the project of David Fleming and Conor Windsor entitled 'Tick Tack Tuberculosis.

Particularly important in County Wicklow, the exhibit looked at fertilisers which are added to land to increase crop yield also increase the worm concentration in the area.

'This increase in worm concentration then leads to an increase in badger concentration which feed on the worms. As badgers carry TB the number of positive cases of TB in cattle herds increases in these areas. This project will investigate the relationship between worm concentration and fertilizer type,' explained David and Conor.

A particularly important project in terms of society today was carried out by Aaron Lee, Jude George and Daniel Morley which investigates the effect of technology on teenagers' lives.

For 'Technology: Friend or Foe', the boys conducted their investigation through surveys with teenagers on the inpact of tehnology on their lives.

They will then compare and contrast the experience of teenagers with that of members of the public who grew up without the internet or social media.

East Glendalough School's entry by Donovan Webb examines how an automatic system can be used to control plant growth in a polytunnel or raised bed while at Coláiste Chill Mhantáin students Lhamo Fitzsimons, Ashleigh de Vreede and Adelaide Kane set themselves the task of investigating the occurrence of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type 3, as is suspected of being underreported.

St Mary's College, Arklow, will have three exhibits at the show including comparing the effectiveness of different types of soap and drying methods by Shona Dillon and Doireann Kavanagh, examining egg quality by Sarah Shortall, Catherine Byrne and Lisa Hamilton and the effectiveness of spot creams by Helen Ryan.

Coláiste Raithín's exhibition entry comes from Lúc de Barra who investigated the potential of pine needle oil as an alternative biodiesel source.

At St David's Secondary, Aoife Rainey, Niamh Daly and Sophie McDevitt looked at The feasibility of running anaerobic digester at a local level on waste materials only in an attempt to reduce our reliance on non-renewable energy sources while Harvey Brezina Cuniffe's project created the 'Family Minder' which allows families keep track on where younger or older family members are with danger zone proximity warnings.

At St Gerard's, Bray, Evelyn Clinton set about understanding the form of data input people gravitate towards and the implications it has on future technological evolutions.

Fellow St Gerard's pupil Joshua Dargan Hayes created a sunshade that charges any USB device (phones, tablets, fans, etc.) and includes an app that allows you to order items from your sun-lounger.

The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2016 gets underway today, January 6 and runs until Saturday, January 9 and all of the Wicklow schools will have their exhibits on show for the public and adjudicators.

There are over 120 student, teachers and school awards to be won, including cash prizes, international trips and the overall title of BT Young Scientist & Technologist(s) of the Year.