HUMANITY’S interaction with the natural world is explored in two exciting projects from students of St Joseph’s Secondary School in Tulla, to be showcased at the BT Young Scientist and Technology (BTYSE) exhibition which takes place in a virtual format this year.
Continuing their very successful participation in the annual event, the school has entries in the Chemical and Physical Science Category as well as in the Biological and Ecological Science Category, under the guidance and direction of Science and Maths teacher, Mairéad O’Brien.
A team comprised of Róisín Sheedy and Saoirse Donnellan have created a piece of jewellery with the capacity to warn people about the dangers of high levels of UV light. The project, which aims to combat rising levels of skin cancer in Ireland, is entitled ‘Solar-powered chemistry: A study of chemical reaction rates in ultraviolet beads’. The work investigates how UV-responsive beads could be used to determine the levels of protection offered by products like sun cream and sunglasses.
Fifteen-year-old Róisín from Tulla told The Champion she has a long-held interest in science and technology, and particularly enjoys Biology and Chemistry. “I’ve been interested since first year,” she said. “We are hoping our research will help people become more aware of the dangers of UV light. A bracelet which reacts to UV light could potentially help to prevent skin cancer.”
Fourteeen-year-old Saoirse from O’Callaghan’s Mills also likes the practical aspects of science subjects. “We learned from our research that skin cancer rates are very high in Ireland and we wanted to do something to help protect people,” she explained. “A lot of people aren’t aware of the risks. Through the research, we definitely raised awareness of the risks with our families and friends.”
Meanwhile, Ciara Sheppard will also represent the school with a project entitled ‘Could nanosilver in everyday products effect marine life?’ Consumer products, such as sports clothes, cosmetics, food containers and even face masks contain tiny silver particles, which are used to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. Ciara’s project investigates how a specific freshwater organism, called Daphnia Magna, responds to the exposure to different concentrations of this chemical.
“Nanosilver is like silver but broken into much smaller particles,” explained sixteen-year-old Ciara from Kilmurry. “It has the ability to ward off bacteria, viruses and fungi. I was interested in it when I read about it in Biology. When nanosilver is in high concentrations, it impacts organisms like Daphnia Magna, because they reproduce more but die at a faster rate.”
While Covid-19 created some additional hurdles for both projects, the enthusiasm of the students has more than compensated for them. “2020 was a little different,” Ms O’Brien admitted, “but we had a good bit of groundwork already done before the restrictions came in. In Ciara’s case, there were less risks because she was working on her own and we’ve been very careful to follow all of the public health guidelines.
“We had been involved with SciFest through Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) and Intel, which meant we had gotten great feedback already and overall Junior Cycle Science is more practice-based and schools have more resources to support it.”
St Joseph’s is delighted to have made the cut for this year’s virtual BTYSE event, as only 500 projects, out of 2,000 entries, were chosen. “The projects have presentations and three-minute videos ready for the judges,” Ms O’Brien explained. “The school has had a good history down the years in the competition and we’re hoping that the projects display the kind of qualities the judges are looking for, they’re both very relevant to everyday life. We’re hoping for success and the students are very excited to be taking part in the competition this year.”