Leaving Cert engineering: Cutting-edge technologies feature in ‘challenging’ paper

3-D printing, exoskeleton robot suits and nanotechnology feature in modern exam

3-D printing, exoskeleton robot suits and nanotechnology feature in Leaving Cert engineering exam. Photograph: iStock

3-D printing, exoskeleton robot suits and nanotechnology feature in Leaving Cert engineering exam. Photograph: iStock


Irish world rowing champions Paul and Gary O’Donovan made a surprise appearance on a modern higher-level engineering paper that mentioned cutting-edge technologies such as 3-D printing, exoskeleton robot suits and nanotechnology.

Donal Cremin, an engineering teacher at Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra in Rathmore, Co Kerry, said the paper attempted to keep pace with modern technological developments.

“The traditional elements of the syllabus were also evident in fair and challenging questions, with students having a good range of choice,” he said.

“The compulsory question one examined a wide section of the syllabus and demanded that students think on their feet with some challenging questions.

There were a few questions linked directly to a design project that students had already worked on.

“This gives them a further chance to demonstrate design and problem solving skills,” said Mr Cremin.

In the materials science question, students were asked to analyse and draw graphs.

Mr Cremin said that popular questions on materials testing and heat treatment were set in a modern and challenging way.


Students were also asked about the use of nanotechnology in the prevention of superbugs and the diagnosis of medical conditions.

In another question, they were asked to discuss the impact of an exoskeleton robot suit in assisting a person with a disability and rehabilitation.

“It’s great that they have the opportunity to answer some questions set in the world they hope to work or study in,” said Mr Cremin.

The ordinary level paper did not contain any surprises, said Mr Cremin.

“The paper was fair and very well-presented. The excellent use of colour images would have helped students to better understand the questions being asked, and the paper covered a wide selection of traditional and modern questions for any students who had prepared for the exam,” he said.

“Students particularly liked a question on the use of personal transporters by tourists.”

This year, 405 girls and 5,199 boys sat the Leaving Cert engineering exam, with just under 90 per cent of all candidates taking the higher level paper.

Try this at home:

Irish sailors and rowers have experienced considerable success in recent years culminating in Olympic and World Championship glory for the O’Donovan brothers and for Sanita Puspure.

Racing boat components, such as oarlocks, have been highly engineered to improve racing performance.

(i) State two key thermoplastic material properties to be considered for the manufacture of the oarlock body shown.

(ii) Name and describe a suitable manufacturing process for the mass production of the oarlock body shown.

(From Leaving Cert engineering, higher level)