Conor de Paor continues his coverage of the BT Young Scientist Exhibition with a look at some of the best projects on show


The BT Young Scientist is now firmly underway following the explosive opening ceremony yesterday. Colm O’ Neill, CEO of BT Ireland, introduced the event and students were left captivated by acts such as the Roney and Joe Science Show. The duo, from the Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin, performed an experiment live on stage demonstrating what is known as the Meissner effect. Ceramic is not magnetic at room temperature but when super cooled using liquid nitrogen, the team showed a ceramic disc floating firmly above a magnet. Other acts included the rock band State Lights and a hip hop dance performance in white lab coats. TG4’s Roisin Ni Thomain and broadcaster Aidan Power hosted the ceremony.

Jason Hannon, Kevin Hanley and Jamie O’Connell from St Nessan’s Community College, Limerick are investigating the effects of microgravity on reinforced concrete. This is with an aim to realising a concrete that would be suitable for use in space. The team entered a competition called “The Only Way is Up” in September 2013 where transition year students had the chance to have their experiment sent to the International Space Station. The boys won the competition and sent their sample of concrete to the ISS for 105 days. The sample had to be contained in a thin plastic tube. The group carried out extensive testing to determine the optimum sand and reinforcing material to make the concrete. It was finally decided to use basalt fibres as opposed to steel as basalt is 75% lighter. The concrete sample has returned from the ISS and is due to unveiled at a seminar in Toronto this October. The original inspiration for this project came from Mars One, an initiative which hopes to establish a human settlement on the red planet starting in 2024. The group admitted that there is still a lot of research to be done and there is even talk of designing a concrete made using lunar dust.

A team from Kinsale Community College, Cork investigated the possible causes and effects of earthquakes off the south coast of Ireland. James Barry, one of the group members, wanted to research this topic after experiencing an earthquake himself in Ireland in December 2013. The magnitude of the earthquake was 2.4 on the Richter scale. The project started off as an investigation into the most probable cause of this particular earthquake. One cause of the natural phenomenon is thought to be the ice sheets moving off from the Irish Sea after the last ice age. Having been depressed by the ice, the crust in that area is now rising, a process known as glacial rebound. This is building up pressure in fault lines all over Ireland. To collect data for the study the group used a available in their school. Unfortunately though, the device hadn’t been turned on for the earthquake that Barry experienced. This project was also carried out with Luke Henderson and Tadhg McCarthy.

An investigation into the cleanliness of holy water in church fonts was carried out by Conor Farrell from St Eunan’s College in Donegal. Farrell looked at the bacterial counts in holy water in fonts from four different churches in his area. He found that there were high levels of bacteria in all of the samples he took. He also took samples before and after mass and found that the bacteria levels fluctuated. This suggests that the bacteria is in fact being transferred from person to person through the water in the fonts. Of the four churches that were tested, three of the fonts were inside and one outside. The amount of bacteria was lowest in the font outside which Farrell explains is due to the cold meaning less bacteria could survive. A simple and effective method to lower the bacteria is to add some bleach to the water in the font. The University Observer does not recommend putting bleached water on your forehead.