Tullamore students receive an Excellence in STEM Award at SciFest

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Cian Fogarty and John Tobin, two students from Tullamore College, Co. Offaly, received an Excellence in STEM Award at the SciFest@SFI Discover national final for their project which investigated which types of soil were best and worst at absorbing the run-off from septic tanks.

Cian Fogarty and John Tobin, two students from Tullamore College, Co. Offaly, received an Excellence in STEM Award at the SciFest@SFI Discover national final for their project which investigated which types of soil were best and worst at absorbing the run-off from septic tanks.

Cian and John were two of 29 students who went on to exhibit their 15 STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) projects at the national final held in the Marino Conference Centre in Dublin.

SciFest is an all-island science initiative which fosters active, collaborative and inquiry-based learning among second level students. This year saw a record number of over 6,000 students exhibiting their projects in local and regional science fairs across the country.

Following concern that the leachate from septic tanks was contaminating ground water sources septic tanks in Ireland were registered in 2010 and it was found that there are over 450 000 of them in the country. Cian and John set out to investigate which types of soil were best and worst at absorbing the run-off from septic tanks. They examined clay, sandy loam and clay loam, being the most common local soil types, and found that clay performed best in their tests to date. This finding could assist County Councils all over Ireland to prioritise the maintenance of septic tanks in their respective counties.

Sheila Porter, SciFest CEO, said, “This year there was a very high standard of projects exhibited at SciFest. All projects exhibited show that when students engage with STEM outside the classroom, they bring their learning to a new level and produce amazing results. Participation in SciFest helps students to develop the skills sets essential for the next generation of creative problem solvers and entrepreneurs. The innovation and the creativity on display at the national final is a testament to the hard-work and dedication put in by the students and their teachers. I congratulate Cian and John as well as all the other students who made it to the final on their excellent achievements.”

Congratulating all the students on their achievements Mr Damien English, T.D., Minister for Skills, Research & Innovation, said: “I was hugely impressed with the skill and level of research demonstrated by each project exhibited at the SciFest final. SciFest allows second-level students to put their analytical and scientific skills to the test. These skills are vitally important for continuing to build Ireland’s knowledge and entrepreneurial society and the students here today will have a very bright and promising future. Encouraging students to embrace learning experiences outside the classroom is vitally important because it allows students to identify challenges, research possible options and present solutions - SciFest is the perfect example of this. I would like to thank parents, teachers and your sponsors for supporting and nurturing our young people’s interest in STEM. It’s an interest that will inform them as citizens and could also lead to further studies on a career in the STEM area.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government said: “SciFest is a celebration of STEM and continues to go from strength to strength. I am encouraged to see so many innovative projects and in particular the level of research that has gone into each project. Initiatives like SciFest are important to help promote STEM among students because these fields hold great potential for the future prosperity of our economy and society. It is up to us as parents, teachers and friends to guide our young people towards rewarding careers in these fascinating areas.”

Leonard Hobbs, Corporate Affairs Director, Intel Ireland remarked that: “For the last three years, the winners of SciFest have gone on to represent Ireland at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair.  All of these winners have consistently demonstrated the excellent creative thinking skills of our second level students and the dedication that their parents and teachers have to promoting inquiry based learning. SciFest creates opportunities for students to work cooperatively with others on areas of local, national and global scientific and engineering interest and Intel is delighted to be a part of this national initiative.”