12-year-old Wicklow student named Intel Mini Scientist 2022

10 Mar 2022

Síofra Ní Scanláin after winning the Intel Mini Scientist award. Image: Marc O'Sullivan

Síofra Ní Scanláin of Gaelscoil na Gcloch Liath in Greystones emerged victorious at Intel Mini Scientist this year.

A primary school student in Co Wicklow has bagged this year’s Intel Mini Scientist award for her science project studying insects in rivers.

12-year-old Síofra Ní Scanláin of Gaelscoil na Gcloch Liath in Greystones picked up the €1,000 prize for her school yesterday (9 March) in recognition of her project titled ‘Feithidí sna haibhneacha’, or insects in rivers.

Ní Scanláin’s research study, written in Irish, explored insects that live in two different streams and one river by taking samples at three different times in three different locations. She then classified each insect according to shape, colour, pattern, shells and number of body parts.

Her research found that cleaner water had a larger variety of insects compared to relatively polluted water, which had higher concentrations of shrimp and water louse. Her next study will focus on how long it takes insects to re-populate a stream after it has been dry for some time of the year.

Intel’s Cliodhna Ní Scanaill, one of the judges at the Mini Scientist competition this year, praised Ní Scanláin’s research for its scientific approach.

“The scientific method in this project was very strong, starting with a clear question and research plan – then collecting samples from different locations in each river and on different days,” she said.

Other Intel Mini Scientist projects

Now in its 15th year, Intel Mini Scientist is an annual science competition in Ireland that gives primary schools students across the country a chance to put their thinking caps on and learn through science projects and experiments.

One project was selected from each participating school to go through to the grand final, which was held virtually this year. The total number of schools taking part this year was 62, and almost 3,000 students from 18 counties worked on around 1,000 projects.

While Gaelscoil na Gcloch Liath bagged the top prize, the runner-up awards went to students at Kildalkey National School in Co Meath, Coill Dubh National School in Co Kildare, Cratloe National School and Kilmurry National School in Co Clare, and Citywest Educate Together in Co Dublin.

These projects ranged from areas such as robotics and carbon capture to effective materials for face masks, how bodies react to no sleep, and a braille project.

Special awards were also handed out for communications (Baltydaniel National School in Co Cork), sustainability (St Cuan’s National School in Co Clare), scientific method (St Michael’s National School, Castletown Geoghegan in Co Westmeath) and innovation (Bunscoil Rinn an Chabhlaigh in Co Cork).

“Engineers are problem-solvers who innovate to deliver creative and sustainable solutions in response to the great challenges our society faces,” said Prof Orla Feely, president of Engineers Ireland, who was a guest speaker at the grand final.

“By getting involved in this year’s Intel Mini Scientist competition, students across Ireland are taking their first steps to build a better world by using their talents.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic