Our young scientists
There is nothing so life-affirming as the enthusiasm of youth. And there was plenty on tap this week at the RDS where that national institution, the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, is taking place. To tour the record 550 stands for the 2013 event was to be enthused by the excitement and passion obvious in some 1,200 exhibitors. All were eager to talk about their work and discoveries.
The exhibition encourages them to shine and present their case and in 2013 the participants, aged between 12 and 18, certainly rose to the occasion. The dominance of female winners this year is notable and a welcome outcome given gender imbalance in the past .
The first exhibition took place in 1965. If the event itself works, so too do the exacting demands for high-quality research expected from the students. Winners go forward to participate in the European equivalent where Irish students have taken top prizes 14 times in the past 24 annual exhibitions. 2012 BT Young Scientists Eric Doyle and Mark Kelly took first prize for physics at the EU contest in Bratislava last September.
Our young scientist competition has also been copied, with a near duplicate taking place in Tanzania in 2012. It may spread further given interest shown this week by delegations from Malaysia, China and Canada.
Concern is often expressed about a low student uptake of the sciences at Leaving Certificate and third level, but none of this applies when it comes to participants in the exhibition. Here the students express ready determination to study science and technology subjects.
There is little doubt that the encouragement they receive through their participation in this wonderful event gives them the confidence and determination to stay the course and build a career in research.