Students gather in Athlone for science competition

Athlone was a science hub yesterday, Thursday March 15, as schoolchildren from across the country congregated at AIT for the national finals of the Primary Science Competition.

Children from third, fourth, fifth, and sixth class came from the four provinces with five out of all six students in Scoil Naisiunta Inis Meain crossing the Atlantic on Wednesday to be in Westmeath in time for the competition.

With projects on subjects as diverse as wind turbines, daffodils, earthworms and what’s really in Coca Cola, students were ready to chat to judges to explain what they’ve been learning.

Sponsored by Ericsson and run by Atlantic Corridor, both based in Athlone, the competition is about taking a holistic approach to developing an interest in science and technology.

That will eventually feed into the knowledge economy, said Tony Devlin, programme manager with Ericsson.

“We concluded pretty early on that we have to start developing interest and enthusiasm very early in life,” he said, and added that he’s been impressed by the variety of projects.

He was particularly struck by the higher level thinking skills of children, seen in their enthusiasm to explain not just what they did, but how they did it.

Essential to the knowledge economy, those skills are a credit to the education system and the work of teachers, he said.

Grace Leonard from Broughal National School in Kilcormac, Offaly really enjoyed doing their project about Our Virtual Science World, which matched a project on their local farming community with an online, virtual farming world.

She explained how the cress they grew in a class experiment was yellow and miserable when grown without light, but was green and lush when grown with light and water.

Teacher Esther Lambe said the children were so enthusiastic about the project they were waiting at the door each morning to get started, and collaborated online at weekends to do the virtual aspect of the project.

Since weather is one of the most important issues on a farming and fishing island, that was the obvious choice for the children from Inis Meain.

The weather prevented them attending regional finals in Sligo, so the judges came to the Aran Islands to them.

Making it to the final generated huge interest and the project has been presented twice to islanders.

When they looked at how to measure atmospheric pressure, the children resurrected the old instrument used by their parents and grandparents, a ‘gloine’ made up of a jam jar and a bottle, which principal Ms Breathnach said would have died out in memory if this generation of children hadn’t rediscovered it.

“That’s one of our best forecasters of the weather,” she said, adding that the project brought the whole community together.

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