Plant germination project takes coveted Young Scientist prize
A research project on plant germination has captured the top prize in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow from Kinsale Community School, Cork have been declared the young scientists of the year for 2013.
The best individual project award went to Edel Browne of Presentation College Athenry for inventing a device that can help people with Parkinson’s disease walk more smoothly.
The runner-up group prize was claimed by Deirdre Ruane-McAteer and Emma Shields of Bush Post Primary school, Louth for their research into the differing social attitudes of students living on opposite sides of the Border to abortion and religion.
The runner-up individual prize went to Shauna O’Neill of Meán Scoil Muire gan Smál, Roscommon, for her study into changes that take place in water when exposed to powerful magnetic fields.
Third year students Ciara, Emer and Sophie conducted a detailed statistical study of whether a certain type of bacteria, rhizobium, could affect the germination of important crops such as wheat and barley. The bacteria grows readily with legume plants, helping them by releasing nutrients. The students wanted to see whether these beneficial properties could be transferred to other crops without harming seed germination.
They found the bacteria did not slow germination, but rather speeded it up in some cases, particularly with wheat and barley. Their study was extensive, with almost 12,000 test results collected over some months. The 2013 young scientists received a perpetual trophy, a cheque for €5,000 and an opportunity to represent Ireland at the next European Union Contest for Young Scientists this autumn in Prague.
Edel (15), who is in her second last year at Presentation, invented a way to improve the gait of people who have Parkinson’s disease. More than 70 per cent of these patients experience “frozen gait”, where changes in the brain caused by the disease cause them to suddenly stop walking. She researched the condition, learning that if the person is able to focus on something in front of them, their gait is not interrupted.
She developed a simple laser pointer device that can be attached to the patient’s shoes, giving them a target to focus on in front of them. She showed it improved people's gait by 39 per cent, with all patients making improvements. The best individual award includes a BT perpetual trophy and €2,400.
For their project, Deirdre and Emma decided to do a statistical analysis of the views and opinions of students on both sides of the Border on difficult issues such as abortion and religious belief. They devised a survey and distributed this to schools along the Border, looking to see whether there were significant differences between the students.
The two fifth-years, who have both participated in the exhibition before, found while there were few gender differences, there were wide cross-Border differences when it came to abortion and the importance of religion. They take home a perpetual trophy and €1,200.
Runner-up individual winner fifth year Shauna carried out an exhaustive analysis of how exposure to powerful magnetic fields can magnetise water, in the process changing its properties including increasing its boiling point by about two degrees. This was her second time to participate in the exhibition and she takes home a perpetual trophy and €1,200.
The exhibition remains open until Saturday afternoon, by which time up to 45,000 visitors are expected to have toured the RDS. Tickets cost €6 and €12 for adults, with family tickets costing €25. For more information see btyoungscientist.com