Young Scientists at 50

Young Scientist at 50 2 - exhibition hall

This year was the 50th anniversary of the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, now also known as the BT Young Scientist Awards.

2014 was an unusual year, in that an exhibitor won on the strength of a wholly abstract innovation. 17 year old Paul Clarke of St. Paul’s College, Raheny went home with the top prize for his Contributions to Cyclic Graph Theory. Dry as it might sound, it’s no small matter. The winning exhibitor earns themselves the attention of BT’s Innovation Team, a trip to Silicon Valley in California and an opportunity to meet representatives from leading technology firms and research facilities. Scholarships often result.

This year, 18 awards were granted to Dublin-based entrants, with a further 15 entrants being highly commended. 2,000 exhibits were submitted for the 2014 show, involving 4,418 students from 379 schools from across Ireland. 45 schools were from Dublin.

NewsFour spoke with Gill Madden, who has been press officer for the event for the last 14 years. We wanted to know if, this being the 50th anniversary, had there been any special challenges to organising the show. “Not especially because it was the 50th,” she explained, “it’s a very big event, which gets a lot of attention from all over the country and beyond, so if there’s pressure, it’s not any more for the 50th than it might have been for the 38th or the 47th.”

There were a few things which marked the anniversary out as special, however. “Well, one of the founders of the first ever event was in attendance, Dr Tony Scott of UCD, and we also invited the first ever winner over, John Monaghan. He won the award in 1964 for work on biochemistry, and he now lives and works in California, running a biotech firm. So it was a special year in that sense.”

Science education is a priority in Ireland, given the repeated proclamations by Education Minister Rúairí Quinn that science and technology will be key to rebuilding the economy. He made a point of asserting this on record at the 2012 BT awards and emphasising that while Ireland has a famous literary tradition, our equally significant scientific tradition is under-recognised. Maybe the up-and-comers from the BT Young Scientist Awards will be the ones to change that perception for the better.

Left: The main exhibition hall.Below: Back in 1989, young scientist Ruth Cannon of Sandymount High School is shown researching her Analytical Survey of the River Dodder, Ballsbridge to Lansdowne Road.
Below left: Crowds queue to attend the exhibition.

By Rúairí Conneely