Young Scientists clean up at awards

12 Jan 2009

This year’s BT Young Scientists of the Year award has gone to two second-year students from Kinsale in Co Cork. The pair, 13-year-old Liam McCarthy, and 14-year-old, John D O’Callaghan, are sons of farmers, and aptly enough have created a groundbreaking test to establish the health of cattle – using washing-up liquid. It is thought the research could be commercialised for use by farmers in Ireland and further afield.

It is a great win for the students, who had been concerned with the financial losses incurred if milk sold from their farms had high contents of somatic cells. Somatic cells highlight infection in the mammary gland of the cow, which makes it more difficult to process milk during cheese-making. At present, tests for somatic cells are expensive and slow, but the boys have created a simple apparatus that could be used by the farmer to quickly test the milk and determine its status. Commentators have said the product could be highly marketable.

The duo won a cheque for €5,000 and a Waterford Crystal trophy, and will now go on to represent Ireland at the 21st European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Paris in September.

Over 1,000 students competed in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition this year in 500 projects from across Ireland. Some 74 were based in the technology category.

Some winners in the technology categories included: Daisy Pemble, Thérése O’Donoghue and Laura White for the development of a self-cleaning biological water filter for home use; and Ronan Roche Griffin and Richard Tyrrell for their creation, a bus notification and alarm system for the visually impaired and blind.

In the individual categories, projects such as Enviroman, Automatic Energy Saving and a Blind Sensor Aid were also finalists. Meanwhile, Scott Baker, a student from Salesian College in Celbridge, Co Kildare, received recognition for developing an educational computer game to help combat bullying in schools.

Some interesting tech creations on display at the exhibition in Dublin’s RDS, included Rubot, a robot that made history last week by solving a Rubik’s Cube in record time for a robot. Designed by Irish aviation engineer Peter Redmond, the robot uses cameras in its eyes to scan the cube before working out the puzzle. On the day, it beat existing records by solving the cube in just over one minute, but has the potential to solve the cube in 35 seconds.

By Linda Daly