The BT young scientist exhibition has been running in Ireland since the early 1960’s. It was started by two UCD physics researchers Rev Dr. Burke and Dr. Tony Scott. They visited a science fair in the US in 1963 and adapted the idea and format for Ireland. The first competition had 230 participants and was won by a young Brian Monahan, who went on to become Chief Executive Office of Avigen, a US biotech company!
Students from all over Ireland compete in science subjects from the school curriculum. Sponsorship from large Irish corporations such as Aer Lingus, and eventually BT have made the competition hugely successful. In 2015, there were nearly 60,000 visitors to the exhibition and 2077 entries.
The competition has three main categories: chemical, physical and mathematical sciences, mathematical sciences, social and behavioural sciences. BT introduced special awards which have really increased the profile and standard of the competition. BT Scientist(s) and Technologist(s) of the Year, best individual or group, runner up individual or group which has really increased the profile of the competition in recent years.
Students take part to explore something they’re passionate about in science. They also gain invaluable experience in personal development, confidence building, teamwork and leadership skills. Students engage in studies that are current, innovative and relevant to on-going fields of scientific and social-science research today. Students also have the opportunity to compete in the European Union contest for young scientists.
In 2021, the BT Young Scientist awards were not deterred by the pandemic and took place remotely. Winning entrants included the overall winner Greg Tarr who developed ways of detecting state-of-the-art deepfake videos and runners up Isobel and Eva Hynes who studied how an individual’s ‘health belief model’ affected their attitudes to covid-19 and their likelihood to get the vaccine.
Hopefully a bit of inspiration for any of you budding scientists out there!