What do young scientists look like? Here is a sample from this year’s exhibition in the RDS. Clongowes is proud of Henry Glass (pictured here with Taoiseach Brian Cowen), whose individual project won the runner-up overall prize for the second year running. A young Gonzagan won the Science Foundation award, and four of his colleagues were highly commended. Thomas Breen from First Year in Belvedere took second place in the Junior Technology section, and two other Belvederian groups stirred much interest with their projects. For a fuller picture of the work from all three schools, read more below.
Henry Glass: After being individual runner-up in 2008 BT Young Scientist Competition, it was a remarkable achievement by Clongownian Henry Glass to repeat this achievement at the 2009 Competition. His study on “The distribution on the freshwater limpet Ancylus fluviatilis in a short stretch of the Moneycarragh river”, made a significant contribution to the knowlege of the ecology of this species.
The study was done between September and December and required ten days’ field work. Henry was particularly interested in studying the effect of water velocity on the distribution of the limpets in the river, and how the animals orientated their shells in response to the flow. When measuring almost four hundred rocks in the river he noticed that there were fewer limpets on the shaded sides of stones. Further research proved that the availability of light determined the amount of algae growing on the rocks, and since this is the limpets’ food, it influenced the density on the different surfaces of stones. He also found that the density of Ancylus fluviatilis is lowest in fast water where the limpets kept out of the current under the stones. The limpets orientated the shells most frequently with the front or the back facing the current which is more hydrodynamically efficient than sideways to the flow.
At the BT Young Scientist Competition in January 2008 Henry heard about a couple of essay competitions that he had the opportunity to enter during transition year. With his essay on an erratic, titled, “Aill na Mireann, The Celtic Centre of Ireland” he was the Kidare winner and fourth in the whole of Ireland in the Year of the Planet Competition sponsored by the Geological Survey and the RDS. For “Another Invasive Alien Arrives”, an essay on the seaweed Sargassum muticum, Henry was awarded Intermediate runner-up in the 2008 RDS McWilliams Young Science Writers’ Competition. For promoting an interest in the study of molluscs through his slug project, The Malacological Society of London gave Henry an Education Award of £200 to go toward school equipment for biological studies.
Gonzaga: In the early days of Gonzaga, Science was practically an extra-curricular activity, pursued in the old stables under the guidance of Fr Bill Lee. Bill must be looking down with joy at the latest prize-winners among the Young Scientists: pictured here (L to R) are Jack Hutchinson, Peter Gillen, Mark Lincoln and Ben McRedmond, who were highly commended for their project on A Food stock renewal system for your house; and Patrick O’Doherty who won the Science Foundation award for a project on Automatic Energy Saving.
Belvedere College had three entries this year. Cormac Fitzgerald, Robbie Doyle and Luke Colgan investigated some of conditions that affect the souring of milk. Gerald O’ Halloran and Colm Hand (Transition Year) were entered in the Intermediate Technology Category with their study of the potential of harnessing the energy from sea waves into electrical energy. Their elegant design sparked off a lot of public interest and the two boys have applied for a patent on their device. In the Junior Technology category Thomas Breen developed a hand-held sensor device for use by blind people in place of the white stick. Thomas’ device caused quite a stir at the competition, and the judges awarded him 2nd place in his category, a massive achievement for someone of his age. Thomas describes how he came up with the idea:: “I saw a blind person walking down the street using a white stick. Later that day I thought to myself – with all the technology we have, why has nothing been done to help the blind or replace the white stick? I wondered would it be possible to create a replacement for the white stick? By Christmas I had made a device which could detect objects in the path of the user by using an ultrasonic signal and then warn them of obstacles by bleeping and vibrating. My device could also give a blind person directions to a location by a user-friendly gps navigation system. Taking part in the exhibition was a great experience. I made friends and saw some excellent projects. One of my favourites was a school-bag which went on the front and back of you to improve your posture – it won first prize in junior technology.”