12 January 2018
By Bryan Smyth
The winner of the 54th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) has been announced. Simon Meehan, aged 15, a Transition Year student from Colaiste Choilm in Cork, has taken home the top prize for his project entitled ‘Investigation into the Antimicrobial effects of both aerial and root parts of selected plants against Staphylococcus’ aureus. The coveted prize was presented to the winner this evening in the BT Arena by Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton and Managing Director of BT Ireland, Shay Walsh. Simon Meehan presented his project in the Biological and Ecological section of the Intermediate category.
Simon’s award includes the largest prize fund yet of €7,500, the BTYSTE perpetual trophy and an exclusive trip to Bletchley Park in the UK, the infamous World War II coding centre. In addition, and uniquely this year, the winner will have the opportunity to represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, taking place in the RDS, Dublin in September 2018. This will be only the second time in the 30-year history of the competition that Ireland will host this prominent international event.
Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, said, “I’m delighted to be here at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition – it’s fantastic to see so many young people engaged and inspired by the STEM subjects and their application to real world problems.
Outside of school activities such as this have a critical role to play in sparking that passion in our children for science and technology and have a massive influence on their engagement with STEM in their future lives. We’ve recently launched our STEM strategy which aims to give more formal recognition to student’s participation in initiatives such as this.
I would like to congratulate every student, teacher and school community involved for all their hard work during the year and especially this week. The Exhibition is a highlight for the education calendar every year.”
Shay Walsh, Managing Director, BT Ireland said, “This year’s Exhibition has exceeded all expectations showcasing projects and innovations which are now, more than ever, pivotal for the future of our society. Our theme for this year’s exhibition is ‘It Starts Here’ – but this is only the beginning and it is vitally important that every student’s voyage of discovery does not end here. I want to congratulate every student that entered, and Simon, our overall winner. Simon’s innovative skills and entrepreneurial approach are critical to research and development led companies like BT”.
Speaking about the winning entry, BT Young Scientist Judge and Chair of the Biological and Ecological Sciences Category Professor John O’Halloran, commented; “This is a really exciting project which explores the possibility of the blackberry leaf extract’s ability to control harmful bacteria. The unexpected findings deliver a unique approach to killing bacteria using natural plant active ingredients. The rigour of the approach adopted by Simon set his project apart from competitors and made him our overall winner.
Simon selected nine locally sourced plants such as asparagus, nettles and blackberries to test for the presence of chemicals which could potentially be used to control bacterial infection. The leaves of the blackberry plant were shown to contain a chemical which prevented the growth of different bacteria”.
The award for Group winner went to James Knoblauch, Harry Knoblauch and Oran O’Donoghue, all aged 16 and 5th year students from St. Brendan’s College Killarney, Co. Kerry for their project entitled ‘An Investigation into Conformity and How Minorities Influence it’. The students were in the Social and Behavioural Category at Senior level. In two controlled psychology experiments, the project demonstrated how one person can influence the behaviour of others, using a unique approach to studying group dynamics, focusing on the influence of an individual within a group setting.
The Individual runner-up award was presented to Claire Gregg, aged 16, transition year student at Loreto College St. Stephens Green, Dublin for her project entitled ‘An Analysis of the Housing Shortage in Ireland using Agent-Based Modelling’. Claire was in the Social Behavioural Sciences category at Intermediate level. Claire’s project addresses a significant challenge in society in an innovative, sophisticated way by modelling complex data on the housing shortage in Ireland. The model identifies the most salient factors affecting the Irish housing market by drawing on extensive data sources.
The Group runners-up award was presented to Darragh Twomey, Neil O’Leary and Andrew Heffernan, aged 16, transition year students at Colaiste Treasa, Kanturk, Co. Cork for their project entitled ‘Feeding 9.6 billion people by 2050’. The students were in the Biological and Ecological Sciences category at Intermediate level. They carried out a field study to increase food production in a sustainable manner. They treated barley with a specific strain of bacteria and found it increased the yield of varieties of the crop.
This year an impressive 2,031 projects from 4,251 students across the island of Ireland were entered, with every county represented by a submission. 60% of entrants are female and the highest ever number of entries from DEIS schools, a positive indication of the power of this platform to engage participation in the critical STEM subjects.
The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition continues tomorrow, Saturday 13th January, and is open to the public from 09:30 a.m. – 17:30 p.m. Make sure to book your tickets online in advance at www.btyoungscientist.com/ticketing to avoid disappointment as both Thursday and Friday of the Exhibition totally sold out. Visitors can look forward to a packed event once again tomorrow with 22 shows which include the Ministry of Science, World of Robots and a Journey Through Space and Time.
For more information, visitors can download the free BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition app now. Alternatively, log onto www.btyoungscientist.com, check outhttp://www.facebook.com/BTYSTE, or follow on Twitter at http://twitter.com/btyste