Last week, the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition took place in the RDS in Dublin. It’s been taking place every year for over half a century. This year saw thousands of students taking part, competing for a number of awards. Some of the students were good enough to discuss their projects. You can read about them below.
Hana Gallagher of Loreto St Stephen’s Green conducted linguistics research.
“Since society is becoming really dependent on technology and it’s prevalent in our everyday lives, I wanted to see if this has an effect on the way we associate certain words. The meanings of many words have changed, or they have become completely new words.”
Hana wanted to determine the effects of technology on how we use words – looking at demographics like age.
“In order to investigate this, I created a test in which people were asked to draw the first thing that came into their heads when they were presented with certain words. Each of these words has two meanings, one associated with technology. So I gave this test to approximately 360 people between the ages of 6 and 85. Technology has been prevalent in the lives of older people for less time than younger people so I predicted that older people would associate fewer words with technology, but my results show that older people were less likely to associate these words with technology, however the group most likely to associate the words with technology were between the ages of 18 and 39. Children are first exposed to the non-technological definitions.”
If you think about the meaning of the word “mouse”, this is very likely to be true in most cases!
“Therefore,” Hana concluded, “it takes a certain level of exposure for the linguistic change to actually come into effect.”
Solutions to flooding were offered from John Monaghan and Caoilin O’Meara from Newtown School, Waterford.
“Flooding is a big issue in Ireland and Ireland’s government and the OPW’s solution is to build artificial flood barriers. We think there are problems with these because they’re extremely expensive and take a long time to build,” John explained. “One, for example, in Fermoy cost €28 million and it took seven years to complete. When you build flood barriers in a town or area that prevents flooding in that area but then the water in the river can float downstream and flood another area.
“It’s essentially solving the problem in one particular place, rather than solving the problem of flooding in general,” added Caoilin. “We wanted to investigate the different types of vegetation to see which one could influence the soil to create the best soil type for absorbing the water and preventing the water from reaching the river in the first place. The soil quality would have to be high, and would have to have good drainage and absorption abilities. We tested different areas of old Irish forestry which is oak, holly and hazel, and also in new ash forestry and pasture land, like farming areas in Ireland. Through studies of the soils we saw that the old Irish forestry which is the native woodlands did the best job absorbing and retaining water and also draining water through. The native woodlands would absorb all or most of the water in the whole catchment, which would prevent flash flooding.”
What about in urban areas? There were reports some years ago about paving over lawns causing flooding as there is less ability for rainwater to drain away. Is that a big issue in the cities?
“For a while people thought that concrete was a problem,” Caoilin said, pointing to the samples behind her on the stand, “but as you can see, there is soil here that doesn’t let any water through at all. There’s a sample of soil here in a drainage experiment and any soil that doesn’t have any vegetation will be the same as concrete. So technically, certain soils will be as bad as concrete. Concrete is not the only issue. Farmlands that have been overworked by machinery, and even just pasture lands, are concerns too. Some farmlands have almost as much run-off as a concrete field would have. More trees need to be planted, and through our studies we found that the best trees to be planted would be the native Irish woodland.”