Northern Ireland

BT Young Scientist 2015: NI schools find success in Dublin

An overview of the projects on display at the Young Scientist and Technology exhibition
Image caption There are 550 projects from all over the island of Ireland on display at the Young Scientist and Technology exhibition in Dublin

A County Antrim school has won three awards at the BT Young Scientist competition in Dublin.

St Killian's College in Antrim was honoured in three categories, taking the title of Northern Ireland Best Project for its "time compressed transport tester".

The overall top prize was won by two 16-year-olds from County Cork, Colaiste Treasa students Ian O'Sullivan and Eimear Murphy, for their project, "Alcohol consumption: Does the apple fall far from the tree?"

In all, there are 550 projects from 206 schools all over the island, 29 of which are from Northern Ireland:

Oakgrove Integrated College in Londonderry won the Irish Aid and Gorta Self Help Africa award for its highly commended "seed harvesting kit for subsistence farmers in developing countries".

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Media captionZoe McGirr explains how their school project helps farmers in developing countries become more sustainable.

The device built by Megan Duffy and Zoe McGirr is set to be used in Ethiopia.

Zoe says their project aims to build a kit that will help farmers in developing countries become more sustainable by giving them everything they need to re-use their seeds.

Megan adds that their kit is solar-powered and is being "sent to Africa by a charity to see how it can cope with the increased temperatures".

Oakgrove Integrated students were also highly commended for another project, "Investigating the flow properties of Granular Materials".

Ballyclare High School also found success in a number of categories for two of its projects, "Car Speed by Doppler Shift" and "Using Biomimicry to produce environmentally friendly cement".

Environmental concerns were uppermost in the minds of Bethany Stewart and Emma Neill, whose project just might have implications for future construction and engineering.

Emma says they are trying to carbon-neutralise the process of cement production by copying the process that corals use to make their outer skeleton.

Bethany adds: "What we're ultimately trying to do in our project is reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses entered into our atmosphere and to reduce the greenhouse effect."

Job market

Jennifer McCluney, a teacher at Ballyclare High School, says competitions like this are very useful for students, particularly girls.

She says science is increasingly important in the job market, and it is important that girls are encouraged into science and engineering "because, hopefully, there'll be lots of jobs in that area soon".

Antrim Grammar School was highly commended for its project, "Computer encryption: Can Shor's algorithm be used to crack data encryption keys?"

Image caption Justine Joy-Munoz's project investigated the nicotine content of electronic cigarettes

Standing on the balcony overlooking the main hall, you get an idea of how big the 51st Young Scientist competition is.

One student from St Mary's College in Derry picked a subject that is topical for this time of year.

With many people trying to give up cigarettes as a new year's resolution, Justine Joy-Munoz is investigating the nicotine content of electronic cigarettes.

"I found that these e-liquids had more of a nicotine content in them than was stated on the packaging. One of them had 12 times the amount advertised," she says.

"But the e-cigarettes were close enough to what the packaging said. So, they were more accurate than the e-liquids."

Jobs and the future of the economy are also very important in the thinking of the sponsors of the Young Scientist competition.

Colm O'Neill, chief executive of BT Ireland, says that science, technology and maths are crucial to the ongoing development of the country, generating the necessary skills to attract inward investment.

"I think in Northern Ireland we've been incredibly successful in that in recent years and these types of skills are essential to that."

He adds: "We also shouldn't miss how some of these young people are coming up with ideas that can be turned into businesses in their own right."

Image caption Students discuss their projects at the Young Scientist exhibition

Enzymes are what the students at the Abbey Grammar School in Newry, County Down, focussed on in their project.

An enzyme, says 16-year-old Aodhán Donnelly, is a biological molecule that is used to break down larger biological molecules - all of which can be useful in medicine.

"A while ago in the HIV virus, scientists were able to find a particular enzyme and then get an inhibitor for that to stop it working and stop it from spreading throughout the body," he says.