On Friday November 10 Shannon McHugh and Ciara Keaveney, third-year students from Glenamaddy, and Thomas Hayes, a sixth-year student from Yeats ColLege, competed among the top young scientific minds at SciFest 2017 and were awarded an Excellance in STEM award, for their projects examing the benefits of ash as a fertiliser for plant growth, and to heart valve prototypes to treat heart valve disease. SciFest, now in its 10th year, is funded primarily by Science Foundation Ireland, Intel Ireland and Boston Scientific.
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 the Marino Conference Centre in Dublin, was also attended by the Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton.
Shannon and Ciara examined the benefits of ash as a fertiliser by comparing grass and onion growth with ash, to grass growth with other fertilisers. Their results showed that both grew better in ash due to nutrients present, and that as a result, ash is being wasted in Ireland.
Thomas Hayes developed prototype heart valves to treat those with heart diseases. These valve prototypes have the potential to be used in surgical aortic valve replacement.
Dr Ruth Freeman, director of strategy and communications at Science Foundation Ireland, presented Shannon and Ciara with the Abbott Ireland Award for their work. The students secured their places at the national final after their success at the SciFest regional final in GMIT.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of SciFest and saw a record number of more than 10,000 students participating in local and regional SciFest STEM fairs across the country. Since its inception over some 50,000 students have partaken in the competition, with a year on year increase of 23 per cent in participation. Shannon, Ciara and Thomas were among 42 students who went on to exhibit their 26 STEM projects in the national final.