Covid-19 dominates entries for 2021’s virtual Young Scientist exhibition

A quarter of all qualified projects for 2021 tackle topics on health and the pandemic

The impact of Covid-19 is the dominant theme among entries for the 2021 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, with a quarter of all qualified projects delving into topics on health and the pandemic.

Projects range from the effects lockdown may have had on different socio-economic groups to investigations into the effectiveness of different types of face masks and the impact of hand sanitiser on our skin.

Due to coronavirus, the exhibition will be staged virtually for the first time and will run from January 6th to 8th. The impact of Covid-19 is explored across all four categories: social and behavioural science; technology; chemical, physical and mathematical sciences; and biological and ecological sciences.

BT Ireland has confirmed the 550 projects that will represent schools and communities from across the island of Ireland; with the finalists comprising 642 girls and 399 boys. The projects have been selected from more than 1,300 entries and they represent 213 schools. The projects will be showcased on the exhibition's virtual platform to a national – and increasingly international – audience.


Year after year, student entrants explore and analyse both national and global social issues that are important to them. Many projects this year touch on direct provision, gender studies, race, domestic abuse, sexual assault and socio-economic challenges. Climate change was the dominant theme in the 2020 contest at the RDS in Dublin.

The ongoing prevalence of social media and technology in everyday lives features strongly among this year’s projects, alongside a growing trend of research on personal safety and the safety of others. Qualified projects also demonstrate a continued interest in the science behind sports, with projects investigating protective sportswear as well as the effects of nutrition on performance.

‘Hugely impressive’

In spite of a challenging year for students and schools, the quality and quantity of this year's projects were "hugely impressive", said BT Ireland managing director Shay Walsh. "I commend all students who entered a project for the [exhibition] for their commitment and drive in recent months. To see the ways in which students, with the help of their teachers and parents, have interrogated the pandemic through their projects, is incredible."

The exhibition's head, Mari Cahalane, said: "We are excited to unveil the new interactive platform in January, which will also bring the exhibition to new audiences, far and wide."

There will be a schedule of events suitable for all ages to look forward to in January, she said. This will include special acts, the Primary Science Fair and business events taking place alongside showcasing projects.

Minister for Education Norma Foley said the exhibition was a highlight of the school calendar every year. "It gives our students a unique opportunity to explore and investigate their interests in Stem subjects, and this year was no exception. The projects demonstrate the great ambition of our students who continue to push boundaries by exploring solutions to issues of the day such as the global pandemic, climate change, mental health and many others."

Details of the 2021 exhibition are at

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times