Battle-ready robots mix with bird droppings

Young Scientist Exhibition opens to the public in the RDS

Redheads are supposedly more flexible or hyper-mobile than others. This cintender for the BT Young Scientist prize tests the flexibility of redheads compared to that of other people.


Students stood proudly alongside their projects this morning as the Young Scientist Exhibition opened to the public and the second round of judging got under way in the RDS.

Today, the RDS is divided into different zones where students and visitors can meet scientists and professionals. In the “Eco Zone” they can talk to geologists, marine biologists, and development NGOs. The Environmental Protection Agency is there showing off their hovercraft. “Woah! That is very, very cool,” said one wide-eyed boy before he and the rest of his class piled into the back of it.

Over in the “World of Robots”, visitors can take their seats under a circus big top and watch remote-controlled machines beating the shrapnel out of each other.

“The World of Science and Technology” section meanwhile is teeming with youngsters testing out the various interactive games and quizzes. Intel has a stand here, laden with big screens and laptops.

“They’re looking too much at all those games and stuff,” said Tom Sheridan, who works with the company. He’s standing over a training model of an electrical control system. Video games and software engineering is all well and good, he says, but it’s tough to get the sought after jobs in those sectors. “In the real world you are going to have to fix washing machines,” he said.

He added that companies such as his are here to pique the interests of 5th and 6th class primary school pupils and encourage them to think of electrical engineering for the future.

RTÉ are also here, with the ever popular weather booth where students get the opportunity to stand in front of a blue screen and present the weather forecast under the tutelage of Met Eireann’s Siobhan Ryan.

At one point girlish screeching erupted and we thought it was Michael D Higgins, who proved popular with the kids yesterday, back for another visit. Turned out it was Ryan Tubridy. “Are you excited to see Ryan?” we asked a pair of schoolgirls. “She is,” one of them responded, pointing to her friend. “He’s the most famous person I’ve ever seen!” beamed the friend.

Back in the main hall it’s business as usual. There are two rounds of judging today before the final round tomorrow and Moira Barrett, Jennifer Barry and Ruth Kevane are nervously awaiting the judges. Their project measures the acidity of bird guano (that’s poo). They got the idea after hearing people complain about bird droppings discolouring their cars.

The girls collected and tested the pH levels of 17 samples of droppings from native and foreign birds. In the end, however, they discovered that the level of acidity didn’t actually affect the paint work of vehicles. So next year the first year Bandon Grammar School students are going to find out what does. And, if you’re interested, the species with the dubious honour of having the most acidic poo was—by some distance—the blue-and-yellow macaw.

For his study of dream recollection, Eoin O’Kelly from Gonzaga College in Dublin asked his subjects to record their dreams in a journal for four weeks. He found no difference in the levels of recollection between males and females, but he did notice discrepancies when age was taken into account.

“Over 55s remember dreams most, followed by under 25s and then under 55s,” he said. He links a lack of dream recollection to stress and believes people over 55 are more likely to be retired and under less pressure in their daily lives than those between the ages of 25 and 55 who are more likely to be employed.