St. Anne’s Secondary School, Tipperary Town recently took part in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in the RDS in January.
Second year students, Silvia O’Dwyer and Tracey Hanley represented the school with their project titled, ‘A quantitative analysis of the concentration of potassium ions in drinking water samples’, testing over 28 drinking water samples representative of the South Tipperary area for potassium levels.
“The atmosphere was incredible and we were delighted to be one of the 500 projects selected out of over 2000 projects, the highest in the competition’s history,” explained Tracey. “It was so exciting to showcase our research to the public. We met lots of new people and made so many friends and the whole place was buzzing,”
The two students had previously participated in Scifest, a science competition in LIT, Limerick and this inspired the girls to get involved in the project.
Very high levels of potassium can pose certain health threats to those with chronic illnesses, diabetes or kidney disease for example. If high levels of potassium in the blood remain unchecked, it is possible for a cardiac arrhythmia to occur. Tracey and Silvia were delighted to meet with Dr. Kathleen O’ Sullivan who helped the girls to reach a better understanding of the possible health effects of high potassium levels. Considering that a database of potassium concentrations in our drinking water is not currently available, the girls thought it was a good idea to investigate the levels of potassium in South Tipperary drinking water for themselves.
The girls found that the levels of potassium in the samples were all within EU recommended guidelines, i.e. less than 10mg/litre.
“It is reassuring to know that those in high risk groups in our community are safe with regards to potassium in drinking water,” Silvia explained.
The girls travelled to the RDS Dublin on January 9 and set up their stand. They had a tap with a water drop coming out of it as part of their display, created by the 2nd year art class.
Over 45,000 people came through the doors of the RDS to visit the exhibition. Both girls agreed it was a fantastic opportunity that provided them with the chance to showcase their project and learn about other projects and they were absolutely thrilled to receive an award for their work.
“After doing this project, we really developed a love for science and our fellow students are more enthusiastic and interested in the subject as well,” said Silvia. “We would like to say a huge thank you to our teachers Ms. Treacy and Mr. Kivlehan. They were so eager to help and without them it wouldn’t have been possible.”
The girls are also very grateful to Mr. Denis Maguire, executive chemist with South Tipperary County Council, for his considerable assistance.
“We would most definitely encourage students in the coming years to participate,” added Tracey.