Hard or soft? It's melon entry, my dear Watson
Don’t you just hate it when you buy what looks like a perfectly good melon only to find it is as hard as a sliothar or soft as mush?
Well not any more if a project on display next week at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition by students from Blackwater Community School, Co Waterford, works out.
Lorraine Bray and Treasa Fitzgerald are working on a reliable way to test the ripeness of melons without cutting them open.
It is based on tapping them with a wooden mallet and recording the sound waves as they pass through. They record these and also calculate the melon’s density. After that they open the melon up and measure sugar content and taste.
The object is to be able to predict whether it will be a good melon by the sound waves alone. It may be a tall order but the two students are having a go.
As ever the range of projects that will be on display at the RDS next week are very impressive. Some deal with the big issues of our times like energy and health.
Elaine Looby of Blackwater School is running an elaborate series of experiments looking at bioethanol production. She is using a yeast that can break down cellulose from plant material and wood, even if the wood is from old furniture.
“I want to get Ireland moving towards a greener future in terms of bioethanol production,” she says.
Fellow students Lucy Hartley, Cathal Lee and Shane Moloney are looking at keeping the heat in your house once you have burned the fuel. They are assessing the contribution to heat retention made by the outside layer of roofing materials, comparing the performance of slate, thatch and a living “green” roof.
On the medical front, Kaylan Barrowman and Emer Traynor from St Mary’s College, Co Derry, are conducting experiments to see if a common vitamin could be used to wipe out MRSA superbugs.
They worked through a sequence of experiments to see if the natural antibiotic activity of Niacin, vitamin B3, could be used to control resistant staph infections and kill off E coli and B subtillis bacteria.
Their schoolmate Chelsey Barrowman is also assessing antibiotic activity, this time provided by green tea. Some class it a “superfood” because of its ability to act as an antioxidant, she says.
Chelsey decided to assess the evidence available that green tea might also be a natural antibiotic. She tested it against E coli and B subtilis bacteria in various concentrations and as a competitor to the common antibiotic drug amoxycillin.
Other projects at the exhibition will track between the fun and the fascinating, like testing hamsters to gauge their capacity to learn.