Westmeath students win national awards at Final of SciFest 2018
Two groups of students from Westmeath secondary schools have won national awards at the SciFest 2018 National Final which took place on Friday November 9, in the Marino Conference Centre in Dublin.
Juliette McGrane, Rebecca Campion and Laoise O’Brien, 5th year students from Athlone Community College, and Emma Kelly and Brian Conlon, also 5th year students from Moate Community School, competed among the top young minds from across the country to receive their awards.
Juliette, Rebecca and Laoise were awarded an Excellence in STEM award, for their project which studies and compares the air quality in locations around Ireland. Emma and Brian were awarded the Abbott Ireland Life Sciences Award for their study on the ecological impact of Irish gorse fires.
With their project, Juliette, Rebecca and Laoise wanted to test the belief that the quality of air deteriorates as it travels across Ireland from the south west to the north east due to Ireland’s south westerly prevailing winds. They discovered that there was an increase in nitrogen tolerant lichen and a decrease in nitrogen sensitive lichen as they moved north west across the country. As a result, they concluded that country air found in Ireland is not heavily polluted, but the air quality does deteriorate as it crosses the country. Therefore, the idea of 'Clean Country Air' is just a myth.
Margie McCarthy, Interim Director of Science Foundation Ireland, presented Juliette, Rebecca and Laoise with their prize – an Excellence in STEM award. Juliette, Rebecca and Laoise secured their place at the National Final after their success at the SciFest regional final in Athlone Institute of Technology.
For their project, Emma and Brian aimed to identify the immediate and long-term impact of wildfires on the abundance and biodiversity of plant and animal life present in a variety of bog land sites. Using the results of their study, they developed a peat additive that would help to promote the re-establishment of moss on burned sites.
Paul Hennessy, Customer Experience Director of Abbott Diagnostics, presented Emma and Brian with their prize. Emma and Brian also secured their place at the National Final after winning their category at the SciFest regional final in AIT.
SciFest is an all-island STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) initiative which fosters active, collaborative and inquiry-based learning among second level students. The final, held in Marino Conference Centre in Dublin on Friday, was attended by Richard Bruton T.D., Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. It continues to grow year on year with over 10,000 students participating in local and regional SciFest STEM fairs across the country this year. Since its inception in 2008, over 60,000 students have participated in the competition. Juliette, Rebecca and Laoise were three of 63 students who went on to exhibit 37 STEM projects at the national final.
Sheila Porter, SciFest Founder and CEO, said:
“It is fantastic to see the level of talent, enthusiasm and determination on display today from the students. SciFest gives students of all abilities and backgrounds the opportunity to develop their research, problem solving, critical thinking and presentation skills. We take pride in creating the biggest, most inclusive student science event possible. This year we are excited to introduce the Broadcom MASTERS Award for junior cycle students where the winner will have the opportunity to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. This is a fantastic opportunity for young students with a budding interest in STEM.
Previous entrants in SciFest have gone on to develop their projects and become leaders in the areas of science, medicine, engineering, information technology and many other fields. I want to congratulate all of the participants here today on what they have achieved with their projects, as well as their teachers and their parents for their wonderful support.”