SciFest STEM competition is on the hunt for more innovative teens in 2022

7 Feb 2022

SciFest 2022 is open for entrants. Image: SciFest

Last year’s SciFest saw teenagers create a shopping app for visually impaired people, a sustainability website for farmers and a medicine reminder app for dementia patients.

SciFest has today (7 February) kicked off its 2022 programme with a call for entrants to its regional competitions.

The national STEM fair aimed at secondary school students across Ireland is entering into its 17th year. The annual competition is free to enter and organisers are now seeking entrants for the 16 SciFest@College regional fairs. The deadline for completed entry forms is 11 March.

SciFest is eyeing a return to in-person events having held competitions virtually last year and the year before. Each year, the competition attracts around 10,000 entrants.

The goal is to help students develop research, problem solving, critical thinking and presentation skills, as well as foster an interest in STEM. Entries will be accepted across a range of scientific disciplines.

Overall winners from each regional STEM fair will go on to compete at a national final in November 2022. The winner of the SciFest National Final 2022 will represent Ireland at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2023 in the US. They will also be given a trophy.

Teen innovators

The winner of last year’s national final, Clare Reidy, said she “loved every minute” of her experience at the fair and winning the final was “source of great pride” for her and her family.

Reidy, a student from Our Lady’s Bower school in Athlone was named SciFest STEM Champion 2021 for her innovative research project that explored cosmic radiation protection, investigating effective building materials for future exploration of Mars. She will represent Ireland at Regeneron ISEF in the US this May.

“SciFest enabled me to research something that intrigued me, and it helped sharpen the skills I needed to investigate it … I’d encourage students with an interest in STEM subjects to give SciFest a go because it will give you the tools to come up with ideas and solutions for real problems and existing issues,” Reidy said.

Irish non-profit Teen-Turn works with young women and girls to encourage them into the STEM sector. It also mentors students in creating science projects in line with the requirements of SciFest through its Project Squad programme.

Last year’s Teen-Turn SciFest mentees included Orlaith Heaney and Elizabeth Byrne from Mount Saint Michael secondary school in Claremorris, Co Mayo. The two 15-year-olds created a website to make it easier for farmers to become more sustainable. Both Byrne and Heaney come from farming backgrounds.

Peri-Elkie Tiendioh, a 15-year-old student at Cork city’s Christ King Secondary School, also worked with Teen-Turn to develop Forget-Me-Not. This is a medicine reminder app for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, where patients can also schedule an appointment with their local GP.

Teen-Turn also mentored Limerick student Maha Shahzadi of Coláiste Nano Nagle. The 15-year-old developed Eataware, an app that helps visually impaired people shop independently for their groceries and track their dietary requirements. The app uses text, speech, audio, sensor alerts and picture technologies.

“I got guidance every step of the way and encouragement on the days things didn’t go to plan,” Shahzadi said. “From thinking scientifically to coding, time management and writing, Teen-Turn’s Project Squad has helped me gain countless skills that you wouldn’t learn in a traditional classroom.”

Shahzadi, Tiendioh, Heaney and Byrne all received high commendations for their projects last year. They will continue to work with their mentors at Teen-Turn to develop their projects.

Sheila Porter, SciFest founder and CEO, said she continues “to be staggered by the high standard of submissions” the team receives each year.

“We’re immensely proud of this competition and the opportunities it offers students. These kids are the doctors, scientists and innovators of tomorrow and we are calling on all students, regardless of their circumstance or current STEM abilities to join us for SciFest 2022,” she added.

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Updated, 6:31pm, 7 February 2022: This article was updated to clarify Teen-Turn’s connection to SciFest.

Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic