Northern Ireland

Judgement day for NI's young scientists

It is judgement day at Dublin's Young Scientists Exhibition
It is judgement day at Dublin's Young Scientists Exhibition

It is judgement day at the 49th Annual Young Scientists Exhibition in Dublin and schools from Northern Ireland are well represented.

Thirty-one projects from 13 NI schools feature in the contest.

The RDS building can be a noisy place with nearly 2,000 students from all over Ireland competing to be the Young Scientist of 2013.

The projects highlight their concerns which are often environmental.

Year 12 students, Hannah Cordner, and Kyle Graham from Wellington College in Belfast are looking at the ecological effect of global warming on marine life in general and the brine shrimp in particular.

"Our aim in our experiment is to investigate how environmental conditions affect the rate of growth of the brine shrimp. We changed different factors like temperature and the acidity," Hannah explained.

Kyle said: "When the temperature is increased but when other factors were altered they grew less."

"To sum-up global warming definitely has an effect on how brine shrimp is growing," said Hannah.

At work: Kyle Graham and Hannah Cordner from Wellington College, Belfast
At work: Kyle Graham and Hannah Cordner from Wellington College, Belfast

St Mary's College in Londonderry has the most entrants from Northern Ireland - 12 pupils are taking part.

Among them is Justine Munoz, 14, who has developed an ecologically friendly way to catch slugs because she believes current chemical ways can be harmful to other creatures and animals.

"I came up with a one litre bottle. And you can put dog food, cat food, beer strawberries, pop corn or fries in it. You cut it in half and tape it together. And that's your friendly catcher", she said.

Ann Blanking, a science teacher at St Mary's said her students were always excited about coming to Dublin and meeting others with a similar interest.

"They love projects that are directly-related to real life because they can make a connection with it. They love sharing ideas with other kids. And they don't feel as if they're nerds. And I say, 'What's wrong with me? I'm a nerd!!'" she said.

Ann may consider herself a nerd and why not?

We live in an era where technology seems to change our lives almost daily.

For that reason Colm O'Neill, the chief executive officer of sponsors, BT Ireland, said competitions like this were extremely important.

"The reason we have a knowledge economy is because we're in the middle of a techno-scientific revolution and we don't really know where it's going to end," he said.

"We also know there is a global shortage of these types of skills. These exhibitions take science out of the classroom and it's got to make a huge difference to everybody here."

Fergal McNally's project certainly takes science out of the classroom.

Justine Munoz, 14, has developed an ecologically friendly way to catch slugs
Justine Munoz, 14, has developed an ecologically friendly way to catch slugs

He is a 14-year-old student at St Colman's in Newry and his entry is all about sheep scattering and how the animals respond to farmers and strangers with and without food or meal.

It seems they are addicted to meal and Fergal said this had practical consequences.

"If a farmer has feral sheep that are on a mountain he can introduce meal to tame the sheep. That means he can get up closer and check his sheep without having to run after them," he explained.

Food, this time in Africa, is of interest to second year students Megan Duffy and Zoe McGirr from Oakgrove Integrated College in Derry.

Zoe said their projects aim to help farmers recycle seeds.

"Instead of throwing them out they can save them by using our wet and dry methods. And then they can plant them the next year and they won't have to buy seeds and they'll save money," she said.

Saving money and saving the planet are issues that concern nearly everybody.

But David Cardwell, a science teacher at Wellington in Belfast, hopes the students will leave Dublin on Friday evening with something else.

"Hopefully they'll take these experiences into their future careers. And, hopefully, they'll design something amazing. The next Apple could be born in Northern Ireland. Wouldn't that be amazing?", he said.