SciFest@StNathy’s 2015 – A Report

The Faculty of Science at St. Nathy’s College, Ballaghaderreen, held a Junior Science Fair on Friday 30 January 2015. One hundred and forty First and Second Year students competed in the competition, with a total of 58 projects. They arrived into the large Sport Complex hall, at 9a.m., amid an air of excitement and anticipation.

They earnestly set about setting up their posters and displays. Project titles were varied, many reflecting the interests and life experiences of this group of 12 – 14 year olds.

Titles included

• Nasty Nicotine
• How to prevent injuries from Football Boots
• The effects of video games on Children
• Does wearing foundation give you spots?
• How Social Media affects our lives
• Ill-discipline
• Computer radiation
• Should Energy Drinks be banned from Schools?
• Which Gender has better Concentration?

Topical issues such as “How can we make the Farm a Safer Place?” and “What causes people to drink alcohol?” were addressed as were more technical questions such as “Could we live without Polymers?” and “How do Crystals form?” Despite the diversity of the problems that these students set out to solve, they shared a common enthusiasm to share their ideas and findings with anyone who would listen! Bring on the Judges!

Seven Judges, from the world of Science, had the onerous task of interviewing the students and picking the winners. The Judges included Mr. Joe Dillon and Mr. Pat Cummins of Aurivo, Mr. Pat Curran, Mr. Alex McDonnell and Fr. Martin Jennings, former Science teachers at St. Nathy’s College, Ms. Jemma Freeman, a Science graduate and former student at St. Nathy’s and Ms. Sheila Porter, Founder and CEO of SciFest, who acted as Chief Judge.

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[lightbox_image size=”full-half” image_path=”” lightbox_content=”” group=”SciFest” description=”SciFest Setting-Up”]

These judges, who generously gave of their time, made the students feel at ease as they asked them questions, and probed to determine their depth of knowledge and understanding of their projects. They worked throughout the day, consulting with each other and visiting some projects up to four times during the day before making their final decisions.

While the competing students were busy setting up their projects and impressing the judges, others were busy setting up demonstration tables. Dr. Eadaoin Tyrrell, of the Life Sciences Dept., Sligo I.T., challenged students to determine how strong they are, as well as informing students of courses available in Sligo I.T.. Dr. Sheila Gilheany of the Institute of Physics (IOP) spoke to students about careers in Physics while Mr. Cyril Furey, of Arran Chemicals, Athlone, spoke to students about the importance of taking a Science subject for their Leaving Cert., and career opportunities open to Science graduates.

TY students were a great help on the Day. In groups of three, they set up and manned stands in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Agricultural Science. At the Biology stand, hearts were dissected with precision, while colour-changing chemical reactions were demonstrated at the Chemistry stand. The Physics stand encouraged students to participate in experiments involving sound while the Ag. Science stand had a wormery and challenged students to identify the breeds of farm animals.

The remaining TY students performed a wide range of tasks, ensuring that the day ran smoothly. In addition to setting up the hall and helping junior students to display their work, they met and greeted the visitors, made and conducted a Science Quiz and took photos throughout the day. Their quiz consisted of 10 multiple choice questions and the prize was a pair of Sony V55 DJ Headphones, kindly given to us by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). Over 300 students entered this competition. At the end of the day a correct entry was selected at random. The lucky winner was Lucas Galad, class 1H.

The judges had made their decisions by 3p.m. and the awards ceremony began. First to receive their prizes were 22 students who were awarded Medals of Merit. These were presented by Mr. Denis Naughton, T.D.. The recipients (in no particular order) were Gemma Hallworth and Rebecca Caulfield, class 1M, What are the Effects of watching too much TV?; James Finn and Aaron Finn, class 1S, The effects of Technology on Children; Éinrí Hunt, class 1S, Salers; Lukas Galad, Mohammad Abdullah and Patrick Coleman, class1H, Do video games affect you?; Sarah Rooney, Megan Regan and Dominic Mahon, class 1R, Is your phone as clean as you think?; Letitia Williams, Gabrielle Kuisyte and Shelagh Doherty, class 1R, Hot Phones; Zara Loftus, Marita O’Hanlon and Ellie Moffatt, class 1H, Boys to the Left, Girls to the Right; Ciara McElroy and Ciaran Treil, class1B, Which Tea Bag is the best? and Erin Phillips, Roisin Duffy and Caitlin McDermott, class 1S, Is my phone a Health Hazard?

Next up were the awards in the Life Sciences category. These were presented by Dr. Eadaoin Tyrrell, Sligo I.T.. First place went to Aoife Coleman and Louise Costello, class 1M, with their project Will the next generation be able to communicate without the use of Technology? In second place were Jack McDonnell and Jamie Mitchell, class 1S, with their project What is Ebola? Third place was awarded to Leanne Collins, Lauren Frain and Nicole McGrath, class 1B, How Bad is our Grammar? while fourth place went to Elise Phillips, Ilana Phillips and Anna Regan, class 1S, Why 5-a-day?

The Physical Sciences/Technology awards were presented by Dr. Sheila Gilheany, IOP. In first place were David McHugh, Patrick O’Grady and Darragh McNicolas, class 2M. Their project was How can we make the farm a Safer place? In second place were Jack Casey and David Phillips, class 1H, with their project Is liming your land worth the cost? Third place was awarded to Aaron McNamara and Kevin Kenneally, class 1S, How DRS works on an F1 car, while fourth place went to Mathew Dillon, Shane O’Connor and Josh Carney, class 1R, How to prevent injuries due to Football Boots.

The top three awards were presented next. The Best Individual Project, was awarded to Roisin Maloney, class 1M. Her project was called Can we live without Polymers? Runners-up, Junior Scientists of the Year, St. Nathy’s College 2015, were Lisa Rushe and Samantha Durcan, class 2J. Their project was called Ill-Discipline. They investigated the effectiveness of Penalty Sheets, as a deterrent against bad behaviour in St. Nathy’s College.

The top award, Junior Scientists of the Year, St. Nathy’s College 2015, consisting of a Trophy and €100, was awarded to Darragh Beirne, Oisin Phillips and Mathew Coyle, class 1H. Their project was called Is the time right for LEDs? It looked at the saving that could be made in a typical household by changing from standard incandescent light bulbs to LEDs.

Well done to all the students who entered projects in this competition. The prize winners will have the opportunity to continue their research and to present their projects in the next round of SciFest, to be held in April in Sligo IT.

This Science Fair would not have been possible without the help of so many people (Judges, Exhibitors, Presenters, Colleagues and TY students) and the sponsorship received from both the local community and national organisations. In particular, we would like to thank McHugh’s Wholesalers, Imelda Towey, Thompson Butler, Aurivo, Dooney’s Menswear, Pallas Foods, First Class Office and FDK Engineering of Ballaghaderreen, along with SciFest Ltd., SFI, IOP and the Royal Society of Chemistry.