Renewable bitcoin mining and insects for dinner at BT Young Scientist

12 Jan 2018

Patrick Sheridan from Méanscoil na mBráithre in Clare, who is looking into sustainable bitcoin mining. Image: Connor McKenna

Ireland’s young people continue to impress at this year’s BTYSTE event.

The second day of judging at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) 2018 was a hive of activity, with a plethora of creative and innovative projects on display.

4,251 students from 383 schools all over Ireland impressed with their curiosity and problem-solving skills.

In the bustling RDS, the standard of submissions was inspiring (and more than a little intimidating). yesterday reported on projects that explore filthy pedestrian crossings and an exciting application of CRISPR to purify water.

Here are just some of the other projects that caught our eye.

FOMO and our mental health

A team from Coláiste Nano Nagle in the heart of Limerick city explored the concept of FOMO (fear of missing out) among a variety of age groups.

Students Caitríona O’Halloran, Amy O’Halloran and Kerri Cleary came up with the idea through a conversation they had about social media’s negative effects on self-esteem.

The girls undertook an extensive research project and survey, and found that a gradual social media detox can make everyone feel a little bit more connected and a lot less left out. They also emphasised just how important it is to speak to friends face to face.

Crunchy crickets

Could you stomach insects as a food source in the future? Two students from Skerries Community College examined differing cultural attitudes towards eating insects as a sustainable and protein-packed source of food.

Ruby Mitchell Sherwin and Mia Kelly submitted their project in the Junior category of Chemical, Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and even had an array of creepy-crawly snacks such as cricket brownies on offer to tempt onlookers.

Their idea was inspired by a National Geographic article on the same subject. Mitchell Sherwin and Kelly examined the chemical components within insects that could make them a perfectly viable food source.

During their research, they found that some people were willing to eat the bugs as they were a high source of protein, and others agreed that the sustainable and planet-saving aspect of dining on insects was a positive aspect.

A sustainable future for bitcoin mining?

You can’t go a day without hearing a story about bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, and that’s exactly what Patrick Sheridan from Méanscoil na mBráithre in the Clare town of Ennistymon was looking into.

Sheridan was trying to see whether sustainable, green bitcoin mining was possible, and wanted to figure out which renewable energy sources would work best here in Ireland. Unfortunately, our dreary weather meant solar was not the best option, but tidal and wind power look promising.

A young man with a contagious passion for hardware and computers, his project was visited by Michael D Higgins along with Sabina Higgins, and Sheridan told that he was impressed with the president’s knowledge of the field.

Snail facial, anyone?

In keeping with the insect-based theme of the afternoon, the final team we spoke to from St Aloysius’ College in the Cork town of Carrigtwohill examined the efficacy of snail gel on reducing the appearance of scarring.

Natalia Kowalczyk and Mairead Dennehy compared snail gel products to Bio-Oil, an item well known for its scar-reducing abilities. Snail gel contains hyaluronic acid and proteins, among other skin-boosting ingredients.

The girls explained that snail gel is often used in skincare, and is very popular in some Asian countries such as Japan. There are even ‘snail spas’ where the molluscs crawl on your face as the mucous is absorbed into the skin.

While it’s not for everyone, the pair found that both products have a positive impact in terms of reducing the severity of scarring. They found that snail gel was slightly less effective, but put that down to Bio-Oil’s long ingredient list.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects