Humming asthma treatment wins SciFest 2016 for Kildare student

14 Nov 2016

Caolann Brady was named the overall winner of SciFest 2016. Image: Keith Arkins Photography

A potentially game-changing asthma treatment project developed by a sixth-year Kildare student has taken the grand prize at SciFest 2016.

With interest in SciFest 2016 beginning as early as January this year, the event backed by Science Foundation Ireland, Intel and Boston Scientific, is an all-island STEM initiative which fosters active, collaborative and inquiry-based learning among second-level students.

Despite strong competition from across the country, Caolann Brady, a sixth-year student from St Wolstan’s Community School, Celbridge, Kildare has been named the overall winner of SciFest 2016, for her project ‘Hum your way to better health’.

A tune to hum along to

Born with asthma and knowing the effects of asthma attacks, Brady’s project focused on the natural treatment of the condition through humming and breathing techniques, as opposed to using inhalers and nebulisers.

By starting with the knowledge of research that found the ventilation of the paranasal sinuses (inhaling and exhaling) increases greatly when a person practised specifically defined humming techniques, Brady went about testing it on 175 test subjects.

She then asked the participants to hum into a paper bag at a precise pitch for 45 seconds, which yielded significant post and peak expiratory flow readings for an average of 45 minutes in a patient.

The results, she found, showed that the prescribed humming technique improves lung function across the range of ages, genders and breathing capabilities by an average of 10pc with 99.9pc statistical confidence.

Year to celebrate for girls and women

This year’s award also marks a significant moment for the promotion of more participation of girls and women in science, as this was the first year that a girl had won the overall prize at SciFest 2016.

Additionally, of the 58 students who exhibited their STEM projects at the national final, 65pc were girls and women.

Brady will now have the honour of representing Ireland at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2017 in Los Angeles, California in January.

In response to the projects on show at the awards, SciFest CEO Sheila Porter said: “The range of projects, and the creativity and innovation on display this year is really heartening and demonstrates that the students of today will be tomorrow’s leaders in the area of STEM.

“The aim of SciFest is to foster and develop a love of STEM, and to imbue every student with the skills of self-directed learning.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic