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BT Young Scientist Exhibition major award winners with Mr B McKenna and Mrs M Close - View Full Size Image
BT Young Scientist Exhibition major award winners with Mr B McKenna and Mrs M Close

A group of students from Loreto College Coleraine, Specialist School, have taken six top awards at the prestigious annual BT Young Scientist Exhibition in Dublin.

Under the tutelage of Mr Brian McKenna, Head of Technology at Loreto College, with assistance from Mrs Maeve Close, Head of Physics, the Coleraine school was represented by eight students presenting a total of five projects.  In a triumphant homecoming, the students were presented with some of the premier awards on offer at the competition, including the Individual Runner-Up award in the overall Young Scientist of the Year category.

Hannah Eastwood, a final year student at Loreto College, won three prizes for her research project into Green Rust.  She won the Eli Lilly Award for Best Chemistry Project, alongside the Intel Travel Award, which will enable her to represent Ireland at an international Science Fair in San José, California, later in the year.  To the delight of the entire Loreto contingent at the exhibition, Hannah was also named Individual Runner-Up in the overall Young Scientist of the Year exhibition-wide category, winning an award worth €1,200.  Hannah presented a study of ‘green rust’,a mineral known as lepidocrocite, which can lift all kinds of heavy metals from drinking water, but is notoriously difficult to make. Existing green rust producing methods take up to seven hours in the lab and, if the acidity of the solution is not kept perfectly balanced, other minerals will be formed such as goethite. This makes the green rust less effective and reduces its value.Hannah devised a new “lab-friendly” way to make the mineral that overcomes the biggest problem, trying to keep the solution acidity balanced at pH 7. A sensor monitors the solution and a small pump adds a chemical if it gets too acidic. The system can be automated and does not require specialised or costly lab equipment. She also used chromium to show how lepidocrocite can take this heavy metal out of water. She used chromium because it produced a yellow colour that was easily seen by those visiting her stand, but it would work for any heavy metal, she stressed. “It is not just for chromium, it is all heavy metals.”She also said her method uses cheap materials that readily trap expensive chromium. It was worth $7,000 (€4,870) per tonne and the chromium can readily be extracted and reused, she added. She hopes to study veterinary medicine when she leaves school.

Not to be outdone, Hannah’s fellow Year 14 students Zoe Cheng and Fiona McLaughlin took two top awards for their project on Liquid Film Motors.  The two received high praise and a great deal of interest in their project at the exhibition, taking first place in the Senior Chemical, Physical and Mathematical Sciences section and also scooping the Institute of Physics Award for the best Physics Project in the Competition.

There was promise for the future, too, among the younger students representing Loreto College at the Exhibition: Caoimhe Bond, Year 12, took first place in the Intermediate Chemical, Physical and Mathematical Sciences category for her project entitled ‘Sparkling Physics’.

The College was also represented with great distinction by Anna Breslin and Bronagh Ward (Year 12) and Julia Brzozowska and Roisin Parahoo (Year 10), who also received a great deal of praise for their efforts and enthusiasm.

Loreto College has a long history of success at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition and at other national and international Science competitions: Mr Brian McKenna, who assisted this year’s young scientists with their preparations for the Exhibition, paid tribute to the enthusiasm and dedication of the group and was ‘delighted and enthused’ by their success, as well as by the academic fervour generated by the competition itself.  ‘In our history of many awards at the Young Scientist competition,’ Mr McKenna commented, ‘this is the best yet: I’m very excited by what these young people have achieved and am already looking forward to what we can do next year.’  Mr McKenna has also been invited to attend the International Science and Engineering Fair in California later in the year.

Mr McKenna, Mrs Close and all the students were congratulated by Mr Brian Lenehan, Principal of Loreto College, on behalf of all the staff and students of the College, on these ground-breaking achievements.