Conor de Paor kicks off the University Observer’s coverage of the BT Young Scientist exhibition with a preview of this prestigious and forward-thinking event. [hr]

It’s that time of the year again! Primary and secondary school students from all over Ireland are gathering in the main hall of Dublin’s RDS to take part in the BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibition. This is the 51st time the event has taken place since it started in 1965.  When the official opening ceremony takes place tomorrow at 2pm there will be 550 projects on display in the main hall with over 4,600 students there presenting.

The students will be competing for the highly sought after awards, the winners of which will be decided by the panel of 82 judges. The main prize, the BT Young Scientist and Technologist(s) of the Year 2015, consists of the BT Young Scientist(s) of the Year trophy, a cheque for €5,000, and a chance for the winner(s) to represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists. There are a number of other awards including the Best Individual or Best Group project and Runner-up Individual and Runners-up Group. There are also 36 prizes available for Individuals and 36 for Group projects spread across each of the four categories: Biological and Ecological Sciences, Chemical, Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Social and Behavioural Sciences, and Technology.

For the first time this year students competing the Young Scientist exhibition will be in with a chance to receive a university entrance scholarship. A bursary of €1,000 will be awarded to any fifth and sixth year student(s) that wins either first place in the Individual or Group categories. €2,000 will be awarded to any fifth and sixth year student that wins the overall BT Young Scientist of the Year 2015 award.

Chedera Ezenwa, Adaobi Ezenwa and Orna Reynolds (l-r) from St. Dominic’s College at work on the poster for their ‘Scivision’ project

Chedera Ezenwa, Adaobi Ezenwa and Orna Reynolds (l-r) from St. Dominic’s College at work on the poster for their ‘Scivision’ project

Students from Dublin spent the day setting up their projects in the main hall. One such group from St Dominic’s College, could be seen kneeling on the floor of the exhibition hall putting the final touches on their poster. An ambitious project, the group are putting together a science revision website called Scivision, made entirely by the girls themselves. They plan to cover the entire Junior Certificate science syllabus, including videos of themselves performing the mandatory experiments.

The topics being covered this year have important implications for all of us. A group of students from Belvedere College in Dublin have investigated the feasibility of nuclear power in Ireland. Often seen as a controversial subject, Gavin Walsh and Rory O’Donoghue have taken a scientific approach to the matter and have considered the advantages, disadvantages and the barriers to its implementation.

A team from Scoil Mhuire in Clare are considering a topic much closer to home, ‘The perfect cup of tea’. The girls have investigated the temperature at which antioxidant activity in the tea is at a maximum and the effect of adding milk on this activity.

The event will be open to the public from Thursday 8th – Saturday 10th January. Tickets are available at the door costing €6 for students, €12 for adults and €25 for a family pass