The Age of Enlightenment is truly alive and kicking at Roscommon Community College. Excitement recently escalated across the student body as an unprecedented number of students prepared to participate in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Dublin. This year has been a successful one so far for the Science Department at our school as several projects have succeeded in qualifying for this prestigious exhibition, which was recently opened in the RDS by President Michael D. Higgins.

 

Successful in the Intermediate Biological Science sector with their project entitled “A Comparative Study of Fungal Diversity in Areas of Varying Light Intensity” were Transition Year students Sinead Dillon, Rebekah Daniels and Pedro Silva. The laboratory based investigation will examine the growth of fungus in bright and shaded areas where the students grew fungus under varying light conditions to identify the factors influencing fungal growth.  

 

 

Ryan Tubridy with RCC TY students Sinead Dillon, Rebekah Daniels and Pedro Silva during the BT Young Scientists and Technology Exhibition

 

An intriguing project completed by Transition Year students Shane Donoghue, Sam Fitzmaurice and Theo O’Reilly-Linnane is entitled “An Analysis of Young Adults Gambling in Rural Areas in Comparison to Urban Areas”. This absorbing project is of vital importance to young people in particular as it investigates the issue of gambling and its frequency in rural areas as opposed to urban areas.  Interviewed by RTE News on their project during the exhibition, the students were thrilled at the excitement generated by their work. 

 

 

From L-R; Theo O’Reilly Linnane, Sam Fitzmaurice and Shane Donoghue with Fine Gael Senator Maura Hopkins

 

The third project representing Roscommon Community College was undertaken by Michael Staunton, Ben Finnerty and Michael Lohan.  Competing in the Junior Social and Behavioural Science Category, the 2nd Year students have completed a captivating project exploring “The Effect on a Student’s Academic Self-Concept and Self-Esteem when Moving from Primary to Post-Primary School”. Their endeavours have led to some remarkable findings which made for thought provoking analysis in the RDS last week.

 

One of the projects, however, which has been receiving widespread national media attention is entitled “Insight from a New Generation- Fertility Issues”. Enjoying recent media coverage in both the “Irish Independent” and the “Irish Times” and Shannonside, this project was successful in the Senior Social and Behavioural Science sector and is the brainchild of 5th  Year students Simon Leonard, Michael Egan and Conor Lavin. The hypothesis of their project necessitated the students carrying out a large scale quantitative analysis of the public awareness of fertility issues in Ireland. Fertility means the ability of being fertile, or to be able to conceive children (www.dictionary.com). Infertility is classified as a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse (www.who.int). An interest in this area was motivated by the programme aired on TV3 on September 7th 2016 which was entitled ‘Ireland’s IVF Couples’. The students were gripped by the premise that even though fertility is quite a topical issue, it is nonetheless a concern that is frequently overlooked. Fertility can affect anyone and here in Ireland it affects 1 in 6, which is a considerable amount of people. Ireland’s population in 2016 is over 4.7 million people, meaning that infertility affects over 730, 000 people here alone.

 

Simon Leonard, Michael Egan and Conor Lavin at the BTYSTE at the RDS presentations their project on people’s awareness of fertility issues.

 

As stated on Independent.ie, 5 in 6 couples in Ireland have no difficulty conceiving, but that 1 couple in 6 that is affected by infertility could be any couple we know. In 2015 there were 65,909 registered births, but how many of these couples knew about the topic of infertility? Infertility is something that is experienced by both male and female. The student investigations revealed however that a significant number of people believed that only women were affected by this issue. Conversely, the students research has shown that, depending on the circumstances, the causes of infertility can be traced back to both the male or female (8 out of 106 which equates to 7.5%).

Recently interviewed by Tanya Sweeney of the Irish Independent, Conor, Michael and Simon outlined how their project aims to discover people’s attitudes and perceptions towards fertility and the issues associated with infertility. The intrepid students have devised a test designed to capture how much people know about the topics of fertility and infertility. They self-designed their survey based on an American survey carried out by EMD Serono in 2011 on women aged 25-35 (In the know Fertility IQ Quiz 2011). A flaw was uncovered in their test as the students questioned why it should only be carried out on females aged 25-35.  Males are equally the common cause of infertility as females are and our researchers believed a wider age demographic was worthy of investigation.

 

Of particular interest to our students was the fact that research showed that in Ireland the average age for first time intercourse is 18 in males and 19 in females (Irish Examiner), the students therefore felt that this age demographic should be included in our research. Although Simon, Michael and Conor understood that the project was not targeting intercourse issues but rather fertility issues, they felt people of younger ages would be interested in family planning matters in years to come, hence young people needed to be informed and educated on the issues at hand. Using the American test as a means of comparison, the group included some of the same questions so they could compare Irish research to that completed in America, and they also designed their own questions so that the situation here in Ireland could be determined. The study collected both numerical and descriptive data that was compiled using an Excel spreadsheet.

 

Although the survey was not be carried out on a global or even a national scale the students felt it would be beneficial and would contribute to a better understanding about an issue that is affecting 1 in 10 people around the world (www.resolve.org). What’s stopping you or someone you know from being that 1 in 10? It is hoped that the research conducted by our students will start the discussion on infertility in Ireland, especially amongst young adults. In the words of the students themselves “Our project is important as it will open people’s eyes to a very topical issue that is currently affecting many people. It will allow people to understand not only why infertility is so common but also will allow them to understand how to prevent it. We would hope that efforts will be made in order to help the next generation and to make infertility a thing of the past”. Following the exhibition the students were delighted to be contacted by ReproMed Ireland to acknowledge their innovative research and invite them to present their findings to both the clinical staff and scientists in their Dublin Clinic, and get a tour of their IVF clinics. This is a fantastic opportunity for the students that will help them further understand their research and complement their understanding within their Biology curriculum.

 

The staff and student body at Roscommon Community College would like to extend congratulations to all twelve of our students, along with their teachers Dr. Joanne Broggy Shea and Dr. Lohan. Their motivation, commitment and support to each other during the project phase was second to none and we would like to commend all students on their impeccable conduct and presentation of both themselves and their projects throughout the period of the exhibition. The respect shown to all interested parties, both young and old, was remarkable. The dedication and commitment of our students has made great advancements in the world of science and we look forward to your future endeavours in this field. Well done to all concerned.