Top prize goes to Cork student


A mathematical analysis of the board game Monopoly undertaken by a Cork student, Raphael Hurley, has won the top prize in this year's Esat Telecom Young Scientists Exhibition. Other top prizes were taken by students and groups from Belfast, Cobh and Kiltimagh.

The announcement was made by the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, last night at the RDS in Dublin. Mr Ahern praised both the student participants and their teachers for the time and effort that went into the various projects. He also congratulated the new sponsor, Esat Telecom, for contributing to the success of the event.

The Young Scientist winner for 1998 was Raphael Hurley (15), a third-year student at Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh, Bishopstown, Co Cork. Using advanced mathematics and probability theory, he analysed the best Monopoly properties to own and the likelihood of landing on any given property.

Commenting on his project, the judging panel said the mathematical techniques of game theory developed by Raphael had application in the commercial world. He was awarded a trophy prepared by the sponsor, £1,000 and entry to the European Union Science Contest.

The best group award went to Louise Norwood, Laura O'Connor and Rebecca McLaughlin, of the Dominican College, Belfast. Their project was a study of the trauma caused by medieval weapons which could be seen on ancient human remains. The students detailed injuries found on skeletons and made replica weapons similar to those which would have caused the damage.

These were then tested on pig skulls, and the damage was examined as a way to interpret the human injuries. They also established the physics involved in weapons impact on the body. The group wins a trophy plus £500. Last year's overall Young Scientist winners were also from the Dominican College, Belfast.

The runner-up individual prize, which includes a trophy plus £300, went to Leah Williamson, of Colaiste Muire, Cobh, Co Cork. Her project was a study of attitudes to breast-feeding and whether this form of feeding had any impact on an individual's level of intelligence.

Her results showed that individuals who were breast-fed performed better on differential aptitude tests. She also completed a range of student surveys assessing attitudes to this form of feeding. The judges said that Leah's study would be helpful in developing health promotion strategies aimed at future parents.

The runner-up group prize went to Katharine Harkin and Elaine Mears, of St Louis School, Kiltimagh, Co Mayo, who completed an analysis of depression in adolescence. They surveyed 590 pupils spanning six post-primary years in three rural Co Mayo schools. They studied their experiences of depressive symptoms and demonstrated a marked rise in such symptoms over the six years of school.

Girls showed a substantially higher incidence than boys. The judges said that the project was remarkable for the care used during the surveys and the adjustments made to improve questioning. It would contribute useful data on an area which caused much concern. Their prize includes a trophy and £300.

The exhibition was a "scientific showcase of innovation, imagination and enterprise", said Esat Telecom's chairman, Mr Denis O'Brien, at last night's award ceremony. He also congratulated the previous sponsor, Aer Lingus, for its involvement in the exhibition over the years.