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Covid-19 and climate change main themes in BT Young Scientist event

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Undeterred by Covid-19, which has forced the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition to go virtual for the second year in a row, entrants continue to embrace innovation and show notable ability to solve real-life problems.

The 58th staging of the contest opens to the public on Wednesday, with 550 projects qualifying for the final stages, involving 1,038 students representing 219 schools showcasing their work at the virtual exhibition. The exhibition had 1,440 entries from more than 2,000 students across the island of Ireland.

Inevitably, the impact of Covid-19 features in many entries, while the big push for more sustainable solutions across a wide range of sectors in the economy and throughout society are examined, according to analysis of entries.

Teacher Rory Coote with students Sophie Creedon and Lydia Kelleher from St Mary’s secondary school in Mallow, Co Cork. The team’s project is an ‘investigation into sports-related cranial impacts and the design and development of wearable technology to better enable the measurement and recording of such head impacts’. Photograph: Fennell Photography
Teacher Rory Coote with students Sophie Creedon and Lydia Kelleher from St Mary’s secondary school in Mallow, Co Cork. The team’s project is an ‘investigation into sports-related cranial impacts and the design and development of wearable technology to better enable the measurement and recording of such head impacts’. Photograph: Fennell Photography

The physical and mental health effects of Covid-19 are investigated across all four categories with population samples ranging from young children and students to athletes.

From a social and behavioural perspective, students have also shown a particular interest in fake news and disinformation surrounding Covid-19, with a number of projects exploring attitudes towards news coverage and vaccines.

A lot of entrants examined solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises facing the world. There was also a large number of new/developing technology projects – “lots of healthcare apps and improvements to farming systems”, according to the organisers. Projects on sport, agriculture and diet continue to be very popular.

Entry standards

Mari Cahalane, head organiser of the competition, said judges were very happy with the standard of entries for the 2022 exhibition. Projects are submitted under four categories: biological and ecological; chemical, physical and mathematical sciences; social and behavioural sciences; and technology.

“We are finding that more and more, the projects are about solving real-life problems,” she said.

Renewable energy, emission-reducing technology, enhancing biodiversity and reducing microplastics top the agenda in climate-related projects, while development of new technology, particularly apps, is a prominent trend across all categories.

“Many health-related, education and learning-based projects, and climate-related projects heavily promoted the development of new software and technology; a reflection of the increasingly digitized world we live in.”

Student Harry O’Connor, from Cork Educate Together, showcases his project, ‘the design and development of a bipedal robot for home care’. Photograph: Fennell Photography
Student Harry O’Connor, from Cork Educate Together, showcases his project, ‘the design and development of a bipedal robot for home care’. Photograph: Fennell Photography

Under health technologies, projects range from supporting patients to e-learning platforms that support students from leaving certificate up to third-level and beyond.

The 2021 exhibition attracted a large online audience with many people tuning into the event from around the world. A wide variety of online events will also be staged each day embracing interesting science for all ages; women in STEM; and presentations on topics ranging from space, mental wellbeing and innovation.

Members of the public are invited to view the exhibition online between January 12th-14th but must register through btyoungscientist.com.

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