herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Irish teens scoop top science award

Three Irish teenage scientists have clinched the top prize at the Google Science Fair.

The girls, from Kinsale Community School in Cork, beat off competition from around the world.

Ciara Judge (16), Emer Hickey (16) and Sophie Healy-Thow (16), who won the BT Young Scientist Award in Ireland last year, made it to the finals this week and came in ahead of 17 other schools to take the top prize sponsored by Google.

The 18 finalists were selected from over 5,000 entries in 90 different countries.

The Irish team has won a €30,000 scholarship from Google, an all- expenses paid field study trip to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and astronaut training at NASA.

The Cork girls' winning project examined how a particular bacteria, a diazotroph, can increase germination rates and crop yields.

Experts believe the commercial applications of their discovery are absolutely enormous and can make significant advances in the fight against world hunger.

Underdogs

Ciara said that the girls considered themselves as "underdogs" from the very start of the experiment.

"When we first wanted to do the project, everyone said it wouldn't work," she told the Herald.

"But we wanted to do it anyway, because we said that even if it doesn't work, it's still science."

This final competition win is the culmination of 12 months spent on a whirlwind tour of science competitions.

After they won the Young Scientist title here in 2013, they went to the Czech Republic last September, winning the €7,000 top prize in the EU Young Scientist competition.

They have travelled around Europe to present their project, which potentially has future implications for tackling issues such as food scarcity.

Last September, Ciara scored a whopping 12As in her Junior Cert at Kinsale Community School and she hopes to study veterinary in university.

Ciara's older sister, Ashling, was the 2006 Young Scientist champion.

KCS principal Fergal McCarthy said they were absolutely delighted by the girls' latest triumph.

Irish entries have won the EU Young Scientist competition 15 times in 25 years.

hnews@herald.ie

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