16 Aug 2022

My experience at the BT Young Scientist exhibition

Study on Autism's effects on families

My experience at the BT Young Scientist exhibition

Katie McHugh and Saoirse Duignan of the Gael Choláiste at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition. Photo: Tony Keane

On Wednesday the 11th we were ready, or so we thought.

Actually we were terrified we'd done something wrong. We had no clue what to expect neither did our teachers, which I think scared us even more.

You could feel the nerves building in the car as we got closer and closer to the RDS, with our principal Amanda and teacher Jennifer we were very quiet.

When we got to the RDS and parked it was just after 10 o'clock. We all went in through the opening doors and Katie and I queued up in one queue  and our teacher and principal in another.

When we got to the front of the queue after a couple of minutes, the ladies behind the desks were so nice and most of our worries faded as they wished us luck and gave us our badges and explained what we had to do.

My name is Saoirse Duignan, myself and my friend Katie McHugh entered BT young scientist competition in September with our project, “The effects children with autism have on their loved ones.”

We knew how hard it would be to get into the competition however when our teacher told us in October that we were qualified with our project, we were shocked to get into this amazing competition, frankly we didn't believe it.

However as soon as we found out we actually had qualified, we started drafting our surveys for parents, siblings, friends and family and people with autism. We had three major goals while doing this project. 

- We wanted to get as many people as possible to fill in our survey so we could get a insight into how parents/siblings and family and friends feel and want.

- We wanted to give people who otherwise wouldn't have one voice.

- We wanted to raise awareness about autism and make people aware every person with autism is unique and different, not everybody with autism is like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory or Rain Man.

So we sent our survey links out to different Facebook groups and charities and parent support groups like  ASIAM/Irish Autism Action/Kildare Autism Action and so many more. We got 620 people who answered our surveys altogether, which myself and Katie were thrilled with. We then analysed all the data.

As Katie and I sat at our desk in the RDS, so many people who saw the poster and wanted to know what autism was, which we explained as people hose “brains are wired differently; not good or bad just different”.

We met loads of people who had siblings with autism who wanted to see what we had done, we also had a teacher and a pupil who had autism sit down and talk to our principal.

When Friday came I won the reporter of the day competition with RTE, so I would be interviewing people from different categories.  

All of the people I interviewed were all so nice. Then I went to the primary section, which was great fun as the primary students were all so happy and hyper, it was brilliant talking to them about their projects.

Katie and I aren't done yet as we are thinking of progressing with our project. So many people filled in our survey and we want our research to be extended upon. All in all, the BT Young Scientist 2017 was a fantastic experience.

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