Achievements of three brothers show science can be a family affair


Succeeding in science most definitely has a lot to do with track record, as the research endeavours of last year's Young Scientist of the Year, Raphael Hurley (16) from Cork, testify.

He first came to notice in 1995 when, as one of the youngest contestants ever, he was highly commended for his maths-based project on trees.

Then this year's Esat Telecom Young Scientist & Technology exhibition also indicates that scientific success can be a family affair. Raphael's younger brother, Hugh, is leading a group entry from Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh in Bishopstown.

They have devised a "modified water barometer" and tested its effectiveness by comparing pressure readings with those from the weather specialists, Met Eireann.

It was his older brother, Gavin, now studying maths at Cambridge University, who first entered projects for the competition, and a visit to the 1992 exhibition which aroused Raphael's interest, not to mention encouragement from his father, Dr Donal Hurley, a lecturer in maths at UCC.

Raphael's work also shows good science can be fun too. He demonstrated last year how to win at Monopoly, adding a new dimension to the board game. But underpinning this was his use of sophisticated mathematical Markov Processes to chart the random flow of a Monopoly game and convert it into statistical realities.

It did not result in the game being changed, he told The Irish Times yesterday, but culminated in a fascinating visit to see it being manufactured by Hasbro in Waterford.

He later went on to win third prize with the project at the 10th EU Contest for Young Scientists held in Portugal. He recommends the experience of taking part to every young Irish person.

"It's an experience in self-discipline. You have to push yourself, but it's enjoyable too," he told Sci-Tec, a magazine on the exhibition for this year's contestants.

Raphael is now in fourth year at Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh, and his abilities are manifesting themselves beyond the sciences.

He is taking time out to pursue his French studies at a boarding school in Metz in eastern France. In a hectic 12 months he has also secured nine As in his Junior Certificate.

He hopes to pursue a career in maths, computers and languages, with the possibility of politics; a choice reflecting a young man of many abilities.

* Judging of the 470 projects in the three entry categories begins later today, after entries from the regions are in place. Entrants from Dublin registered yesterday.

The Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr Noel Treacy, will herald the coming into service of a "computer gym", a mobile computer classroom, later today at the exhibition.

Sponsored by Esat Telecom, it includes eight networked computers with full Internet facilities which will be used to help young people develop computer skills and ability to use the Internet.