by Zhang Qi
DUBLIN, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Two Irish students will represent their country in the upcoming 32nd European Union (EU) Contest for Young Scientists slated for September 2020 in Santander, Spain.
The two won the top prize for their joint project at a four-day national young science and technology exhibition which ended here on Saturday.
Cormac Harris and Alan O'Sullivan, both 16, were declared top prize winners of the 56th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) amid cheers from some 2,000 people attending the awards ceremony in the packed hall of Royal Dublin Society on Friday night.
The BTYSTE is an annual science and technology competition for Irish secondary school students, which was first introduced by two local physicists in 1965 with the aim to encourage students' interest in science.
The two teenagers won the top prize for their joint project entitled "A statistical investigation into the prevalence of gender stereotyping in 5-7 year olds and the development of an initiative to combat gender bias" after the majority of a grand jury comprising about 80 judges voted in favour of them for the top prize which also includes a prize money of 7,500 euros (about 8,300 U.S. dollars).
"Despite awareness of the lower percentage of females relative to males pursuing study and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, we still do not understand exactly why this is the case," said Professor Joe Barry, head judge of the Social and Behavioural Sciences Group category of the exhibition.
"Cormac and Alan's findings are important as intervention typically focuses on girls, but the project recognizes the need to focus on all children, boys and girls, from a young age, in order to combat the development of gender stereotyping," said Barry.
A total of 550 projects, involving 1,100 students from nearly 250 secondary schools across Ireland, have been given entries to the exhibition which was opened by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Wednesday.
The projects displayed at the exhibition covered a broad spectrum of scientific areas, including biology, physics, chemistry, computing, social sciences, environment, mathematics, materials, engineering and medicine, said organizers, adding that over 60 percent of them are related to climate change and environment.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the exhibition, the prime minister said he was "really blown away" by the work of the new generation, by their imagination, determination and vision for the future.
He encouraged all the participants to keep innovating, creating and using their imagination to build a better Ireland and a better world.
The exhibition, which will return to Dublin next January, attracted over 50,000 visitors, said Shay Walsh, managing director of BT Ireland which organized the event.