Westmeath secondary school students won an ‘Excellence in STEM’ award for their investigation into Irish air quality at the SciFest 2018 National Final in Dublin last week.
Juliette McGrane, Laoise O’Brien and Rebecca Campion, all from Athlone Community College, tested the belief that the quality of air deteriorates as it travels across Ireland from the south-west to the northeast due to Ireland’s southwesterly prevailing winds.
The young scientists 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, they concluded that while country air found in Ireland is not heavily polluted, the air quality does deteriorate as it crosses the country.
These three 5th year students qualified for the final after winning ‘Best Overall Project’ at Athlone Institute of Technology’s regional SciFest competition back in April. Margie McCarthy, Interim Director of Science Foundation Ireland, presented Juliette, Rebecca and Laoise with their prize – an ‘Excellence in STEM’ award.
Other local students to excel include Emma Kelly and Brian Conlon, also 5th-year students, from Moate Community School. The two competed against some of the top young minds from across the country to receive their awards. The two students were awarded the Abbott Ireland Life Sciences Award for their study on the ecological impact of Irish gorse fires.
Commenting on the success of this year’s competition, SciFest Founder and CEO, Sheila Porter, 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.”
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