Luke ecstatic with Young Scientist award

By Hayden Moore

ADAPTING to climate change was the goal behind Templeogue College student Luke Fox-Whelan’s project at the recent BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Several schools took part in the 57th iteration of the exhibition, which took place online for the first time due to Covid-19 restrictions around gathering.

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Luke Fox-Whelan

Students in Coláiste Phádraig in Lucan, Our Lady’s School in Terenure and Templeogue College all reached the podium with their creative projects.

Luke (16) claimed the Second-Place prize in the Biological and Ecological Senior category for his project Changing Climate, Changing Genes: Epigenetics to help crops deal with climate change.

“I wanted to see if you give a stress test once to a crop when it’s growing, will it strengthen it,” the Rathcoole native told The Echo.

“So I started growing a small crop of barley in a planter in the shed and flooding it to see if it would strengthen it – and it did.

“The idea behind it being that the flood would be the results of climate change in the future so what would happen if you modified the crops to be able to withstand climate change.”

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Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Junior Group 2nd Place winners from Colaiste Phadraig, Lucan Joel Emmanuel and Rohit Tummala and their project 'The effect of light Frequency on background radiation in a cloud chamber'

Climate change is at the fore of Luke’s thoughts, as it is with many people his age who have attended Extinction Rebellion strikes across the world.

The 5th year student based his flooding measurements on rainfall data during storms which he pulled from Met Éireann last year.

Luke spoke about the feeling of seeing his name flash up on screen during the results section of the online iteration of the exhibition after deciding late last year to enter.

“I was ecstatic and it’s kind of surreal to see your name flash up on screen during the presentation,” he told The Echo.

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Luke Fox-Whelan

“My mam was just screaming, it felt absolutely brilliant.

“Young Scientist is something that I wanted to do for awhile.

“It was always one of those things where the teacher would mention it and then the deadline would pass.

“But Fifth Year is really the last opportunity to do it because next year the heat is on.”

Luke has a wide range of interests that he is mulling over pursuing after school, including journalism - which he got a feel for after completing work expierence at The Echo during a Transition Year placement - law and now sciences.

As the exhibition could not be held in person due to Covid-19 guidelines around gatherings, participants needed to create videos to enter for judging at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Joel Emmanuel and Rohit Tummala of Coláiste Phádraig focussed on the effect of light frequency on background radiation in a cloud chamber for their entry.

The Lucan students ended up taking home the Chemical Physical and Mathematical Junior Group 2nd Prize while their schoolmates Taha Fareed and Jevin Joy claimed the same prize in the Technology category.

Taha and Jevin’s project explored the IPD and Nash Equilibrium using machine learning.

Overall, 2,578 students submitted over 1,300 projects for this year’s contest which where ultimately cut down to a shortlist of 1,055 finalists.

The overall winner, Gregory Tarr from Bandon Grammar School in Cork, was presented with a cheque for €7,500 on Friday afternoon for devising a computer programme that detected “deepfake” videos which have caused some issues online.

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