BT Young Scientist: Positive thinking about robots, nature and lawnmowers

10 Jan 2018

From left: Megan Freeney, Sarah Hennessy and Eah O’Gorman from St Mary’s Secondary School, Co Tipperary. Image: Connor McKenna

The sheer variety and depth of projects at BTYSTE 2018 is a testament to young people’s imagination and curiosity.

The BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2018 (BTYSTE) kicked off today (10 January) with the energy and pace we have all become accustomed to and humbled by.

This is BT’s 18th year organising the event, an all-Ireland affair with more than 383 schools from across the island taking part. This year, more than 200 volunteers from BT’s ranks are helping to keep the show running smoothly.

The annual event in Dublin’s RDS began as a science fair in the Mansion House in 1963, and has gone from strength to strength every year.

Now in its 54th year, more than 2,031 ideas were submitted to BTYSTE 2018, out of which 550 projects qualified. About 60pc of the participating students are girls.

An army of 82 esteemed judges from the science and technology world will evaluate all of the projects before a winner is announced on Friday night (12 January).

Over the next few days, will speak to some of the students about their projects.

Day 1: A constellation of good ideas

On day one of BTYSTE 2018, we spoke to Jack Kennedy of Coláiste Mhuire Co-Ed, Co Tipperary, whose entry in the Social and Behavioural Sciences category is: ‘Analysing the effect on first-year students’ positivity using a programme called Three Good Things’. His project was inspired by the deputy headmaster’s idea of getting kids to write down three good things that happened to them every day in their journal to boost wellness and confidence.

Shay Barrett, Nathan Rogers and Seán Nolan from Scoil Chonglais, Co Wicklow, put forward a project for the Technology category called ‘Modelling Engineering Applications with Technic Mechanisms and Mindstorm Robotics’. It involves the use of Lego to model engineering projects and develop problem-solving skills that are key to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

Nikola Tarczalowicz, Oliwier Krawzcyk and Sean Cahalane from Clonakilty Community College, Co Cork, brought together multiple video games systems into one single machine based on a Raspberry Pi electronics board.

Meanwhile, ‘No Mower Accidents’ was the catchy title of a project by Hazel Reynolds, Aisling Dwyer and Kiara Healy from Millstreet Community School, Co Cork, which involves placing a proximity sensor on lawnmowers to shut the machine down if a person comes too close.

Megan Freeney, Sarah Hennessy and Eah O’Gorman from St Mary’s Secondary School in Newport, Co Tipperary, conducted some vital research into a matter that impacts the whole planet: the survival of bees. Their project, ‘An investigation into the effect of different materials on bee health’, used sensors to monitor beehive conditions based on wood and polystyrene used to build modern hives.

We also spoke Amy Keenan and Rosaleen Keehan from Mercy College, Co Sligo, who, along with Molly Budd, asked the question: ‘Can birds predict the weather?’ They were able to prove that yes, indeed, birds can detect weather changes, by studying their eating habits.

Stay tuned over the next few days for more video reports of the stellar constellation of wonderful science projects presented by students from all over Ireland.

Updated, 8.22am, 12 January 2018: This article was updated to provide the correct title of the project presented by Shay Barrett, Nathan Rogers and Seán Nolan.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years