Young Scientist: Students tackle flooding and migrant crisis

President says pupils’ research is important at a ‘national and an international level’

Young scientists past and present at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) at the RDS in Dublin


Ireland’s weather is changing and instances of flooding will increase as a result, according to two Cork students exhibiting at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Ellecia Vaughan and Julie O’Donovan, of Sacred Heart Secondary School in Clonakilty, Co Cork, analysed flood water data collected in Bandon from 1991 to 2015, which included the latest data from last month’s Storm Desmond.

The results are very clear and support the view that climate change is under way, they said.

“The findings show flooding is increasing in Ireland,” Ellecia said. “It is obvious something is happening. Something does need to be done,” Julie added.

The two 17-year-old fifth-year students were an exemplar of what make the young scientist exhibition so important, as described by President Michael D Higgins as he formally opened the event yesterday.

The President praised all students for their hard work and dedication. “Their work is of immense importance at a national and international level,” he told the more than 1,100 students assembled in the BT Arena during the opening ceremonies.

Mr Higgins described the exhibition as “full of curiosity” and said the students displayed great invention.

Science had defined the climate change debate in the Paris COP21 talks last month, he said and science “can find the solutions to these great questions”.

Ellecia’s and Julie’s analysis could readily have been presented at the COP21 climate change meeting in Paris, given its content.

The two used statistics to analyse the impact of flooding in Bandon over the past 15 years.

They chose Bandon because very little had been done to defend the town against floods since the record storms and flooding in 2009.

They shied away from making a direct link with climate change but it was clear the “normal” rainfall statistics and the incidence of major storms was changing, they said.

Topical focus

There were a number of projects looking at the ongoing refugee crisis and its impact on countries across the EU.

Niamh Liston (16) and Hannah Barrett (15), fifth years at Desmond College in Limerick, assessed the factors influencing refugee admittance to the EU.

“We wanted to get the opinions of EU citizens and what influenced willingness to accept refugee admission,” said Hannah.

They looked at three factors, the level of democracy in the country, economic status and population density, she said.

Niamh described how they set up an email-based survey method and attracted 203 responses from 16 countries.

The majority of EU citizens polled felt the refugee crisis was being handled badly.

Almost 11 per cent said their country was doing a good job on the issue but 16 per cent strongly disagreed with this view.

The Paris attacks in November had an impact on their findings. Before the killings, 62 per cent strongly agreed that refugees should be accepted but this fell sharply to 23 per cent afterwards, they said.