Laois student is overall winner at SciFest@College in Carlow IT

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Laois student takes top overall prize in SciFest@College in Carlow IT

Órla McCorry from Heywood CS, winner at SciFest@College in Carlow IT

A Laois secondary school student has won the best overall project award at this year's Scifest@College event at Carlow IT.

Heywood Transition Year student Órla McCorry has won the Science Foundation Ireland Best Project Award at this years Scifest@college event which was held online this year due to Covid-19.

Orla who is starting 5th year, won for her timely investigation entitled Trees on the bog - good or bad for carbon storage. Her study was first awarded at Heywood's SciFest@School fair.  

She explained to the Leinster Express why she picked her topic.

"I have more or less grown up on Abbeyleix bog as my parents are volunteers with the community run Abbeyleix Bog Project. I have always had an interest in nature and I love being outdoors and therefore I am very concerned about climate change and the biodiversity crisis. This inspired my research," she said.

Her study came up with surprising results that growing trees in bogs is actually worse for climate change.

"Trees on the bog can be correlated with the condition of the bog habitat i.e. more trees equals drier and therefore poorer bog habitats. A dry bog will emit carbon whereas a healthy wet bog is a carbon sink therefore restoring bogs is an important climate mitigation strategy," Órla explains. 

"The work was tough, I was out in all weathers surveying the bog habitats and vegetation during the autumn and winter of 2019. I would really like to thank my parents, my dad especially for accompanying me during my fieldwork. I would also really like to thank my teachers, Ms Magner and Mr Ó Súilleabháin. I was away on my holidays and didn’t check my emails, only to find out the news two weeks after it was announced! I’m over the moon with these results and it’s really nice to have some good news in these strange times," she said.

Orla pictured conducting her study.

She will now go on to the national SciFest final on November 20. 

She has received lots of praise from her school.

The Head of Heywood Community School's Science Department is Joyce Byrne.

"Congratulations to Órla on her recent success at the Scifest@College 2020 online regional STEM fair. Achieving the Science Foundation Ireland Best Project Award is an amazing achievement.

"As the competition went online this year, due to the Covid-19 situation in May, the judges had a lot more time and were able to scrutinize the projects even more than they usually do. When you consider this scrutiny it clearly indicates the commitment Órla applied to her work and the high quality of the project.

"Well done from everyone in Heywood Community School! Well done also to her cooperating teachers Ms Magner and Mr O Súilleabháin. We are all very proud of her achievement and wish her well in the National Finals in November."

Her Science teacher during Junior Cycle and Transition Year was Sharon Magner.

"Órla is a great girl, extremely enthusiastic and diligent. She worked very hard and consistently on her project. She has a natural interest and flair for Science, in particular Environmental / Ecological Science," she said.

Aodhagan Ó Súilleabheáin accompanied the students to the Young Scientist exhibition where Órla also was chosen to exhibit.

"Órla is one of those organised and enthusiastic students who makes a plan and goes for it. She went and did it all herself in her own time. She arrived at the Young Scientist Exhibition in January with a fabulous project and impressed the judges with her research and communication skills. She was unfortunate not to pick up an award in a very competitive category, but the feedback she received from the judges gave her some insights into how to make further progress with the work. She obviously impressed even more on this occasion! Fair play to her, I am delighted that she has received such strong recognition for her work. We are very proud of Orla's achievement in Heywood. This is yet another success for the Science department in national Science competitions over the years," he said.

Participants in the National Final will compete for the SciFest 2020 Science Foundation Ireland ISEF Award. This award consists of a trophy and an all-expenses-paid trip for the winning student(s) and their mentor to represent Ireland at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in May 2021 in the US.