Three young science students from Kildare are set for the trip of a lifetime to Africa, after winning a top award at this year’s BT Young Scientist Exhibition.
Ben Conlon, Ruaidhrí Jordan and Mason Scallan from Salesian College in Celbridge won the ‘Science for Development Award’ at the annual science fair at Dublin’s RDS, recently.
The boys’ project looked at ways of preserving water in developing countries using a chemical compound called sodium polyacrylate.
“It’s a substance which can absorb 800 times its own weight in water,” said Ruaidhrí about the project. “By absorbing the water it can reduce evaporation, and thus preserve the already scarce water supply in developing countries,” he added.
“It is exciting to think that a project like this could even save lives during droughts in arid countries,” added Ben.
A government travel bursary provided by WorldWise Global Schools, Irish Aid’s Development Education unit, was awarded to the boys to enable them to travel on a schools study visit to sub-Saharan Africa with Gorta-Self Help Africa.
The award, which is in its 11th year, has been presented in the past to students who have developed fuel-efficient cooking stoves, solar-powered water purification devices, and devised methods to preserve dairy produce in hot climates. The award is organised annually by Gorta-Self Help Africa with post-primary science teachers across the country.
The award aims to encourage post primary students studying sciences to thing about the challenges affecting people in the developing world. “It is not about asking students to find all of the answers, but rather to think about the issues that affect people – when they don’t have electricity, clean water, adequate food and so on – and consider the scientific solutions that could be applied in order to address these challenges,” Patsy Toland of Gorta-Self Help Africa said.