Climate change projects make up two-thirds of Young Scientist entries

‘It gives you hope’, says BT Ireland managing director Shay Walsh

Rhys Morgan and Rob West from Morgan and West Unbelievable Science with Aditya Joshi (centre) from CBS Synge St at the launch of the BT Young Scientist Exhibiton. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Rhys Morgan and Rob West from Morgan and West Unbelievable Science with Aditya Joshi (centre) from CBS Synge St at the launch of the BT Young Scientist Exhibiton. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

 

Projects relating to climate change account for two thirds of entries qualifying for the final stage of this year’s Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) in an indication of strength of feeling among Irish students on the issue.

The number – 335 out of 550 projects – is “unbelievably large”, said BT Ireland managing director Shay Walsh. They range across all categories including what causes climate change; how to address it, and behaviours towards it – notably those of climate science deniers.

“It gives you hope, that they are applying their bright minds, and adding STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) approaches to come up with practical solutions, and how to get people more engaged on the issue,” Mr Walsh said.

Speaking as the first batch of finalists mounted their projects at Dublin’s RDS, he said the other strong trend this year was the number of projects on how technology and social media impacted on young people’s lives, especially their behaviours and habits.

While parents may be concerned about their children being glued to screens all the time, pupils themselves were very conscious of the impact of “almost-always-on online devices on their mental health and development”, he added.

First year student Aditya Joshi (12) from Synge Street CBS in Dublin, who has devised a simple way to solve very complex diophantine equations, was at hand at an informal launch of BTYSTE 2020 on Tuesday.

It was a love of maths, and having been set a challenge by his brother Chirag, that prompted the project, which he has worked on almost every day for the past five months – they attended the exhibition together in the past but this is his first time participating.

“There is no application right now for the equations, but they are very interesting to study,” Aditya explained, while speculating they may become relevant in computer encryption in the future.

Quadrupled visitor numbers

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will open the exhibition on Wednesday, when the renowned physicist and science communicator Prof Brian Cox will speak at a number of events including the Nextipedia business leaders symposium on the opportunities and challenges of technology in the context of sustainability and Ireland’s aim to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The contest has reached its 56th year, the 20th staged by BT. Mr Walsh said over the past two decades it had grown in size from 600 applications - half on exhibition – to more than 1,850 entries, of which 550 were on show. Visitors to the exhibition have quadrupled in that time to 55,000.

Above all, there was consistent improvement in standards, he said, which was reflected in the number of overall winners who went on to win the EU young scientist competition. Ireland has had 15 winners over the 32 years that the the European contest has been staged.

Judging in the BTYSTE begins on Wednesday and it opens to the public on Friday – tickets have to pre-booked through btyoungscientist.com