BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition to go virtual in 2021

Events and exhibits shifting online for next year’s showcase due to Covid-19 pandemic

Rebecca Murphy and Abbey Hehir, from St John Bosco Community College, Clare, with their project, Slurry Pit Laser Saves Lives, in January 2020. File photograph: The Irish Times

Rebecca Murphy and Abbey Hehir, from St John Bosco Community College, Clare, with their project, Slurry Pit Laser Saves Lives, in January 2020. File photograph: The Irish Times

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The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) is going virtual for 2021 because of continued health and safety concerns around Covid-19.

The move means that for the first time in the exhibition’s 56 years it will not be staged physically. Instead it will be transformed “into a spectacular virtual showcase for January 2021”, according to BT Ireland. The measure is an indication of how the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to affect staging of public events extending into next year.

Europe’s longest-running science event is scheduled go ahead from January 6th to 9th with students exhibiting virtually and judging taking place across digital platforms.

A total of 1,800 projects were entered into the 2020 contest, while 550 finalists from 244 schools showcased their entries in January. Some 50,000 people viewed the exhibition at the RDS, which has hosted it since 1966 – its second year.

Members of the public in Ireland, and globally, will be able to visit the exhibition online and enjoy a full calendar of events including special acts, the Primary Science Fair, business events and the exhibits, BT Ireland confirmed.

The exhibition is retaining its 200 prizes with €7,500 going to the overall winner and an opportunity to represent Ireland at the EU Contest for Young Scientists in Salamanca, Spain, in September 2021.

BT Ireland managing director Shay Walsh said: “With the unprecedented global events of the past few months, we have seen first hand the important role that science and technology is playing in finding solutions to this global pandemic.”

He said they had looked at the exhibition with a new lens and wanted to ensure it remained firmly on the educational calendar.

Mr Walsh said he wanted to encourage students, teachers and schools to get involved in the virtual event and “be part of something truly special” in January.

Exhibition head Mari Cahalane said: “People who have experienced the exhibition over the past 56 years understand it is about much more than a science competition. It’s about imagining an idea and then bringing that idea to life through research and development. We’re going to emphasise that in its truest form by bringing the BTYSTE virtual for 2021.”

Information sessions for students

While the exhibition inspires thousands of young people each year to explore “near-endless possibilities in science, technology, engineering and maths”, the exhibition team sought this year to do something new in light of current circumstances, she added.

“We will be holding information sessions online for students and teachers over the comings months and our website is the best source – www.btyoungscientist.com – for up-to-date information for students looking to get started on their entries.”

The online entry process remains the same as previous years, but project entry fees have been waived. To enter, an individual or group must submit a one-page proposal outlining their project idea ahead of the closing date of September 22nd. There are four categories: technology; social and behavioural science; biological and ecological science and chemical, physical and mathematical science.

The Primary Science Fair is open to primary-level students from 3rd to 6th class and will run alongside the main exhibition online.