Ireland's future scientists gather for major exhibition in Dublin

Contemporary issues are to the fore at this year's BT Young Scientist Exhibition

Ireland's future scientists gather for major exhibition in Dublin

Clodagh Clarke (L) and Abbie Cassidy (R) from Ringsend College in Dublin, 09-01-2018. Image: Fennell Photography

Homelessness, mental health issues and fake news are dominating the entries for this year's BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibition.

Over 1,000 secondary school students have entered this year’s competition – following in the footsteps of some hugely successful previous winners.

The gender profile of this year’s entrants will make pleasing reading for those who have called for greater female participation in STEM subjects – with girls making up around 60% of the 12,000 participants.

Shay Walsh from BT Ireland said the standard is very high.

“This year we are seeing – as we always do – the students, the secondary pupils coming up with ideas based on what they are seeing around them,” he said.

“Mental health issues are coming through strongly; environment, fake news, artificial intelligence, homelessness – all the things that are capturing their imagination.”

Among this year’s entrants are 13-year-old Clodagh Clarke and 12-year-old Abbie Cassidy from Ringsend College in Dublin.

They surveyed teenagers about anxiety.

"We did ten from each year," said Clodagh. "They would have a survey and they would write their stress level."

"We wanted to do it just because we feel it is a big problem now in the modern world," said Abbie.

"You can't really go anywhere without seeing teenagers stressing or having anxiety."

She said the survey unearthed some interesting findings on the best ways to deal with stress.

"We tested out loads of different methods for relieving stress and we found out talking helped the most," she said.

"We were thinking about setting up a school committee so that if you ever felt stressed you could go straight to them and talk about it - because it has helped that much."

The competition is going from strength to strength reflecting the growth of science and technology in Ireland

But the head of the Science Foundation of Ireland, Prof Mark Ferguson, said stereotypes still exist.

“I think it is becoming more mainstream,” he said. “But you struggle with historical perceptions.”

“Let me give you an example - A lot of women would not automatically think of becoming an engineer because they often think of an engineer as somebody who carries a heavy steel beam and is in wellington boots in a muddy field and they possibly don’t think of an engineer as a really cool person who is writing code at Facebook or Intel or LinkedIn.

The winner will be announced on Friday and will pocket €7,500.

Previous winners include Patrick Collison from Limerick who won in 2005.

He is now 29-years-old and a billionaire.