Cork students take top spot at BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition

BTYSTE 2020 Winners
Shay Walsh, BT Ireland and Minister for Education & Skills Joe McHugh presenting the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition Overall Award to Alan O'Sullivan and Cormac Harris, Colaiste Choilm, Cork

Winning study looks for root causes of gender disparity in science participation

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13 January 2020 | 0

Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan, fourth year students from Coláiste Choilm, Cork, have been named overall winners of this year’s BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.

Their project A statistical investigation into the prevalence of gender stereotyping in 5-7 year olds and the development of an initiative to combat gender bias looked at how early ideas of what kind of person works in a scientific field begin to develop.

The winning team conducted workshops with 376 5-7 year olds from a range of school settings with a number of different tasks including choosing between gender-specific and gender-neutral toys; drawing and naming an engineer, and; rating male and female competency at a number of gender-specific roles.

The drawing task found that when asked to drawn an engineers 96% of boys drew a male figure, while just over half of girls drew a female one. 

Head judge of the social & behavioural sciences group category, Prof Joe Barry said: “Despite awareness of the lower percentage of females relative to males pursuing study and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, we still do not understand exactly why this is the case. The aim of Cormac and Alan’s project was to determine how early gender stereotyping can be identified.

“Cormac and Alan’s findings are important as intervention typically focusses on girls, but the project recognises the need to focus on all children, boys and girls, from a young age, in order to combat the development of gender stereotyping.

“The project is particularly impressive in that Cormac and Alan also created very pertinent and useable resources for primary school teachers to combat gender stereotyping among young children.”

The winners received the BTYSTE perpetual trophy, the top prize of €7,500 and will also represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, which takes place in Santander, Spain this September.

Cormac and Alan will also attend this year’s London International Youth Science Forum.

The award for individual winner went to Oscar Despard (17) from Sandford Park, Dublin, for his project Applying Data-Driven Experimental Analysis to the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging.  

The group runners-up award was presented to Cathal O’Mara and James O’Malley, second year students from Castletroy College, Limerick for their project Bin Buddy – A SMART Sorting Bin.

The individual runner-up award was presented to Ava Hynes (14) a second-year student at Colaiste Treasa, Cork for her project A statistical analysis of the impact of adolescent smartphone use on adolescent social anxiety and social isolation in the social & behavioural sciences category at junior level. 

The project collected data from 792 12-19-year-old post primary students looking at levels of social anxiety, social phobia and adolescent loneliness, in addition to smartphone usage.

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