Judging begins at the Young Scientist Exhibition

Michael D Higgins opens proceedings at the RDS

Young Scientist Day 1: Fish poo and electric muck


The judges descended on the main hall of the RDS shortly after 3pm to begin assessing this year’s contestants in the BT Young Scientist Exhibition. One of them told The Irish Times that aside from scientific merit they’re also looking for a certain presentational zeal. If a student has a good project but isn’t able to explain it with some enthusiasm, the judges find it difficult to award them high marks.

No doubt they’re looking for the type of qualities outlined by President Michael D Higgins who, in his opening address, praised young people who were “willing to question what has been taken for granted”, saying they were prepared to “turn ideas into living realities”.

Curtis Ryan and Brendan Callanan from Coláiste Mhuire Co-ed in Co. Tipperary were waiting in the social and behavioural sciences section with their teacher Maggie Smith for the judges to come around. The boys have set out to discover how to take the perfect free kick. They both play soccer for their local team, Peake Villa, and established through a course of surveys and practical experiments the best angle to approach a free kick from. “Top right hand corner is the favourite position and 70 degrees is the best angle to approach,” Callanan explained.

Some of the projects are obviously borne out of curiosity and imagination: “Can pyranine dyed water and ultraviolet lighting speed up germination?”, for example. Others, one suspects, are inspired by real life experiences. “Does a broken heart really exist?” a group of girls from Mount Anville School in Dublin wanted to know.

Christine Maron, from Kinsale Community School in Co Cork, was keen to find out whether social media promotes narcissism. She was sitting at her place reading a book while she waited for the judges. One of the things that surprised her when she was doing her project was the sheer “number of people that use social media, because I don’t.” In the end she found that Facebook, Twitter and the others don’t necessarily promote narcissism, but those who use social networks are more predisposed to narcissism.

With some 550 projects to get around to, judging can be a demanding task. For the lay observer deciphering what exactly the projects are about can be challenging enough.

“This investigation will record brain wave activities using a head piece that will scientifically measure a learner’s interest and display this raw data as an EEG printout containing brainwave frequencies measured in hertz,” went the title of a project from Avondale Community College, Co. Wicklow. Happily the girls had also provided a concise subtitle: “Am I thick or just disinterested?”

The first round of judging (there’s a total of four) concludes this evening at 6pm. Tomorrow it’s more of the same and the winner will be announced on Friday evening.