Climate and health apps take centre stage in BT Young Scientist 2022

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Some of Ireland’s brightest young sci-tech minds will showcase their talents today (12 January) at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) 2022.

Now its 58th year, BTYSTE features projects from thousands of secondary school students across Ireland, many of which seek to tackle the challenges faced by different parts of the planet, from improving tractor safety on the farm to detecting deepfakes online.

Over the next three days, more than 1,000 students representing 219 schools from across 29 counties will compete to grab the judges’ attention in a three-day virtual event that can be viewed online for free. 550 projects have been chosen from a pool of 1,440 entries.

Climate, health and new technologies have emerged as top areas of interest for successful student projects this year, while Covid-19, agriculture and sports have also featured heavily.

Projects that feature new technologies to promote the use of renewable energy, as well as those that detect and help break down microplastics or find plastic alternatives, have emerged as top of the agenda in the climate space.

In the health space, apps that could improve waiting times in the healthcare system, new devices and assistive technologies to support people with specific needs featured most prominently in the projects. Mental health was also a topic of many health-related projects.

Apps, in particular, saw a rise in popularity among student projects dealing with a range of sectors including education, climate and health. Several projects dealing with the impact of fake news on Covid-19 studied public attitudes towards news coverage, masks and vaccines.

Crypto value prediction model

Taha Fareed and Jevin Joy, two 15 year old students from Coláiste Phadraig, Lucan, have created a website with an AI model that uses deep learning to predict the value of cryptocurrencies with high precision.

Fareed, who works on the front-end of the website while his partner Joy takes care of the back-end, told SiliconRepublic.com that the hardest part about building the website was making it user friendly.

“The reason we did this project is because cryptocurrency is a lot more safe in preventing fraud. And in order to boost that move towards cryptocurrency for the general public, it’s important for the website to be easy to use,” said Fareed.

Joy said that the two intend to improve the look and feel of the website in the future, adding more pages and making it more user friendly. “Managing the website and school at the same time is tough because we have mocks coming up, but we try to find time wherever possible,” added Fareed.

How red are your tomatoes?

Another project by Susannah Pike and Lisa Guiry, two first-year students of Muckross Park College in Donnybrook, Dublin, studies tomatoes to detect which ones have the highest content of lycopene, the organic pigment that gives tomatoes their bright red colour.

“Lycopene is an antioxidant so it mops up free radicals (highly reactive and unstable molecules in the human body) which can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s,” Pike told SiliconRepublic.com.

The two tested samples of Tomato products in the labs of UCD School of Chemistry and used spectroscopy (a tool for studying the structures of atoms and molecules) to measure absorbances and detect lycopene amounts in the products.

“I was at home chatting to my mum about BTYSTE while she was chopping tomatoes for dinner and I thought how cool it would be to figure out which of the different tomatoes would have the most nutrients to compare and contrast,” said Guiry of the inspiration behind the project.

BTYSTE virtual again

This is the second consecutive year BTYSTE has had to go virtual because of Covid-19.  “We made the decision to go virtual again back in April or May and a lot of people thought we were mad at the time, that we were pre-empting things a little bit,” said Mari Cahalane, who heads the exhibition.

However, according to managing director of BT Ireland, Shay Walsh, going virtual has had some unexpected benefits for the exhibition. “Going virtual has opened up BTYSTE to a much wider audience right across the globe,” he said, adding that lessons learned from last year’s virtual event have helped improved the experience this year.

“Hopefully though, this will be the last [virtual] year and we can get back to the Royal Dublin Society next year,” Shay said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin commended BTYSTE ahead of the 2022 launch said that the initiative “continues to go from strength to strength” under the guidance of BT and that “our students never fail to impress year on year”.

“I am proud to say that people working in STEM in Ireland are changing the face of the world we live in every day. As a government, we want to further strengthen and deepen the role and profile of STEM learning,” he said.

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