Cork students Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow win 2013 BT Young Scientist contest (video)

11 Jan 2013

Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow, the 2013 BT Young Scientist and Technologists of the year

Three students from Kinsale Community School – Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow – have been just announced as the winners of this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. The students have won for their project on the effects of bacteria on plant germination, with their research potentially having future implications for tackling issues such as food scarcity.

Kinsale Community School has this year yet again proven its students’ ability to produce winning projects at the annual science event.

The Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn, TD, presented the top accolade to the Kinsale students.

Ciara, Emer and Sophie, all aged 15, have worked on a statistical project to investigate the effects of Diazotroph bacteria on plant germination. Their project was in the Biological and Ecological Sciences category.

Along with their Waterford Crystal trophy, the winners of the top prize have been bestowed a cheque for €5,000 and an opportunity to represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Prague in the Czech Republic this coming September.

The students’ mentor at Kinsale Community School, Shaun Holly, said that they started working on their project last September and showed dedication by coming in at weekends and during the holidays to work on their research.

Mary Kelly-Quinn, the head judge of groups, Biological and Ecological Sciences category, said that the three students came up with the pioneering idea to test the use of Rhizobium bacteria to speed up the rate of germination in important food crops that don’t associate naturally with this bacterium. 

“They demonstrated that adding Rhizobium in laboratory conditions reduced the time for the seeds of wheat and barley to germinate. The germination stage is one of the riskiest times in crop growth because of losses particularly from adverse weather,” said Kelly-Quinn. 

She said that their results may have implications for our ability to address food security issues.

Other announced the winners this evening to a packed auditorium when the public were entertained by an eclectic mix of music to accompany each winner were Best Individual. This award went to Edel Browne from Presentation College, Galway for her ‘Free Feet’ project. This is a device to reduce freezing of gait in Parkinson’s disease.

The award for group runner-up went to students Deirdre Ruane-McAteer and Emma Shields from Bush Post-Primary School in Carlingford, Co Louth. They won for their project on abortion and religion. The project involved a statistical analysis of views and opinions in the border counties.

And the award for individual runner-up went to Shauna O’Neill from Scoil Muire gan Smal in Co Roscommon. Shauna impressed the judges with her project that looked at the effect of static magnetic fields on the molecular and macroscopic properties of water.

Almost 1,200 students from 31 counties across Ireland competed in the exhibition this year, with covering 550 projects in total on show.

The 49th exhibition has proved to be a major draw this year, particularly for students coming to check out the science and technology projects on offer, with the doors of the RDS in Dublin even closed for a time around lunchtime today as the exhibition had reached full capacity.

BT could achieve its goal of attracting more than 45,000 visitors to the RDS for the 2013 show, with the exhibition set to wrap up tomorrow evening.

Check out our video interview with the winners here:

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic