Irish dancing, onions and cancer findings on Day 3 of BTYSTE 2016

8 Jan 2016

Balbriggan Loreto Secondary School student Renuka Chintapalli at BTYSTE 2016 – all images via Luke Maxwell

Irish dancing isn’t just a hobby, onions shouldn’t always make you cry, Venus flytraps can go vegan (ish) and oesophageal cancer research just gained an incredible new brain to help further medical discoveries. That’s what we learned on the third day of BTYSE 2016.

The third and final competitive day of BTYSTE 2016 was all about biological and ecological science for us, with some trivial eye-catchers mixed in with amazingly in-depth bodies of research.

For example, Balbriggan Loreto Secondary School student (and BTYSTE veteran at this stage) Renuka Chintapalli wowed us with her look into oesophageal cancer.

A future star

Chintapalli (above) used bioinformatics – online databases and software – to find biomarkers in oesophageal cancer metastasis. Identifying a consensus motif, which is finding a pattern in proteins that would indicate if they are important to metastasis, she looked at the gene expression levels of these proteins in oesophageal cancer tissue.

Investigating if these were highly activated or not, ultimately Chintapalli could determine their usefulness with regards biomarkers.

Considering all the data was open for the public to delve into, and Chintapalli wrote a 100-page report to go with her findings, her eventual step into medicine when she goes to college should be a welcome boon to us patients.

Dry your eyes, mate

BTYSTE 2016BTYSTE 2016 entrants James Gallagher and Mark Conlon from Rathmore GS in Antrim, with an onion

Next up was a more straightforward look into why people cry when they cut onions. Well, not why, but how to stop it. James Gallagher and Mark Conlon from Rathmore Grammar School in Antrim developed a solution-based cure for all our kitchen woes.

An amazingly simple mixture of water, ice and baking soda saw the duo create an application that had remarkably successful results. Testing people who didn’t use their solution on onions, the guys found 75pc cried during onion chopping. With their solution? Just 16.25pc.

James explained the idea came out of a home economics lesson when preparation for a curry turned his class into a weeping mess.

“In the onion, there’s an amino acid and an enzyme. When it’s cut they meet and it produces an invisible gas,” explained Conlon. The reaction of this stings your eyes. The baking soda neutralises this, the ice means the gas doesn’t rise, and the entire spray means happy days all round.

Dance the night away

BTYSTE 2016BTYSTE 2016 entrants and Irish dancing enthusiasts Maeve O’Hagan and Eva Fox from St Catherine’s College in Armagh

On to more colloquial issues now, and an investigation into whether or not Irish dancing is a sport or a hobby.

Looking at dozens of dancers and dozens of GAA footballers, Maeve O’Hagan and Eva Fox from St Catherine’s College in Armagh put them all to the test.

Running them through an array of training drills, the duo found out that Irish dancers, pretty much, destroyed footballers in most of the challenges – most notably in the bleep test.

I noted that these footballers were tested out of season, before Fox insisted there’s no out of season for Irish dancers. “It’s a sport”. Case closed.

Carnivores at BTYSTE? Never!

BTYSTE 2016Aoife McGeough of Louth’s St Vincent’s Secondary School with a vegan fly trap at BTYSE 2016

Lastly, on to the quirkiest of the lot, turning a venus flytrap vegan. Aoife McGeough from St Vincent’s Secondary School in Louth took nutrients that the carnivorous plant usually extracts from flies and added it to its soil.

Repeating this process every couple of days, she could then compare the vegan flytrap with a standard carnivorous variant.

Growth slowed in the vegan one, but not entirely, meaning further investigation could prove fruitful (pun, wahey).

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic