SciFest@DCU 2019 Award Winners

An Investigation into Making Food Waste into Bio-Plastic for Everyday Use wins SciFest@DCU

Of the 103 projects exhibited at SciFest@DCU on 3rd May 2019, the top prize on the day, the SFI Discover Best Project Award, went to second year students Aoife McMahon and Rachel Ingle and their teacher Paul Nugent from Santa Sabina Dominican College, for their project “An Investigation into Making Food Waste into Bio-Plastic for Everyday Use”. The Abbott Runner-up Best Project Award went to first year student Aodhán Mc Guinness and his teacher Yvonne Nolan from Clongowes Wood College for his project “Team Performance and the NFL Draft”.

SciFest is an all-inclusive, all-island science initiative which fosters active, collaborative and inquiry-based learning among second-level students. SciFest is funded primarily by Science Foundation Ireland, Intel and Boston Scientific. As one of the 16 regional venues hosting a SciFest STEM fair, SciFest@DCU saw more than 22 0 students from schools all over the Leinster region exhibit 103 projects at DCU and put their knowledge of science to the test. “SciFest is a competition that stimulates students to develop an interest in STEM, while prioritizing inclusivity and inquiry-based learning” said SciFest@DCU co-ordinator Dr. Eilish McLoughlin, Associate Professor in School of Physical Sciences and Director of CASTeL. “We are very grateful the support of all our DCU colleagues and external judges for their careful review of each project and selection of our 18 winning projects” said Dr. Odilla Finlayson, Associate Professor in School of Chemistry Sciences and Judging Coordinator for DCU.

Speaking at the launch of SciFest 2019, Sheila Porter, SciFest Founder and CEO said, “SciFest has now been running for 11 years, and 2019 will mark our 12th year of the competition. I couldn’t be happier at what the competition has become and just how many second-level students are now showcasing their interest in STEM. Last year over 10,000 students participated across the country and I look forward to seeing how much the competition grows this year.” SciFest is funded primarily by Science Foundation Ireland, Intel Ireland, Boston Scientific & Specsavers and it is supported by a number of other partners, including the Institutes of Technology, TU Dublin, DCU, St Mary’s College, Derry, Smart Futures, Abbott, Newstalk, iClass, Seagate, Sentinus, RSC(Ireland) IOPI, ISTA, ESERO Ireland and the Business Excellence Institute.

The DCU Best Project Award winners will be invited to exhibit in Dublin at the National Finals on 23rd November, 2019. The prize for this exciting competition includes an all-expenses paid trip for the winning students and their mentor to represent Ireland at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Anaheim, California in May 2020. DCU winners, Aoife McMahon and Rachel Ingle, said that the aim of their project was to “develop a means of producing bio-plastic from school and household food waste with a view of producing sufficient materials to manufacture canteen utensils for everyday use”. Ten other projects were selected as regional award winners at SciFest@DCU 2019 and all were presented with Dublin Crystal Trophies by representatives of each sponsoring organisation.

  • Abbott Runner-up Best Project Award: Aodhán Mc Guinness, Clongowes Wood College, Team Performance and the NFL Draft. Teacher was Yvonne Nolan.
  • Specsavers Making a Difference Award: Rián O Kelly, Clongowes Wood College, Linguistic Relativity, Is it possible that our world view is based on Language?, Teacher was Yvonne Nolan.
  • Intel Award for Best Physical Science/Technology Project: Mony Aramalla, St Mary’s Secondary School, Micrinfo – An investigation to change the learning habits of adolescents. Teacher was Laura Browne
  • Institute of Physics Award: Arlene Haas, Melanie Bryce, Katie Loughney, Santa Sabina Dominican College, To test if hockey sticks with a low bow and high carbon content are really the most effective., Santa Sabina ,Dominican College, Teacher was Paul Nugent
  • Environmental Award: Jack Shannon, Clongowes Wood College, A comparison of Air pollution in Study and Recreational Areas in Clongowes Wood College. Teacher was Yvonne Nolan
  • Newstalk Best Communicator Award: Alison Grealy, Victoria Leder, Manor House School, How effective is our hand washing technique? Teacher was Emma Cassidy.
  • Chemistry Award: Pawel Kubik, Rean Abu Rahman, James Murphy, St. Aidan’s C.B.S., Drain Cleaner and Aluminum Foil Reaction. Teacher was Ms Caroline Kent
  • Esero Ireland Discover Space Award: Genevieve McDonnell, Rachel Brennan, Mount Sackville Secondary School, 100. Plants in Space? An investigation into growing Teff as a sustainable food source while space travelling. Teacher was Brigid Corrigan.
  • Maths in Science Award: Matthew Kelly, Clongowes Wood College, Not Changing the Clocks, is there an energy saving? Teacher was Yvonne Nolan.
  • ISTA Award (Best project in Junior category): Meiyu O’Sullivan, Skerries Community College, Investigating the effects of caffeine on memory. Teacher was Grainne Enright

In addition, the DCU recognised seven other projects as category award winners and these were each presented with DCU hoodies kindly sponsored by Londis at DCU.

  • DCU Junior Life Sciences, year one: Ella Mulvey, Chloe Beale Nugent, Dominican College, Confusing your Senses, with their teacher Helen May.
  • DCU Junior Physical Sciences, year one: Matt Gammell, Nathan Keane, Danny O’Meara, Colaiste Chraobh Abhann, How to make a homemade hovercraft, with their teacher Gráinne Grauer.
  • DCU Junior Life Sciences: Perin Winders, Mount Sackville Secondary School, The effect of the enzyme Bromaline on gelatin bonds and the effect of heat on Bromaline, with their teacher Brigid Corrigan.
  • DCU Junior Technology: Aaron Fitzgerald, Fingal Community College, Learn more about diabetes, with his teacher Cíara Chaney.
  • DCU Intermediate/Senior Physical Sciences / Technology: Sarah Hickey, Confey Community College, Growth of Penicillin, and her teacher Gráinne O’Loughlin.
  • DCU Best Individual: Skyla Welters, Fingal Community College, Fizz, Crackle and Boom, and their teacher Kate Urell
  • DCU Best Group Project: Niamh Woods, Lucy Redmond, The Donahies Community School, The Osmatic effect of isotonic and sports drinks on animal tissue, and their teacher Chris McCluskey.


About CASTeL

DCU’s CASTeL Centre for Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning at DCU is the largest centre for STEM education in Ireland and its objective is to enhance STEM education at all educational levels – supported by evidence-based research and contributing to international good practice. CASTeL researchers will provide pedagogic support to schools to adopt effective approaches to teaching, learning of energy and sustainability though the professional development of teachers. For more information, please go to the CASTeL website:

About SciFest

SciFest is an all-inclusive, all-island science initiative which fosters active, collaborative and inquiry-based learning among second-level students. It involves second-level students showcasing science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) projects at a series of one-day science fairs held locally in schools and regionally in the 14 location across Institutes of Technology, TU Dublin, DCU and St. Mary’s College, Derry. SciFest is funded primarily by Science Foundation Ireland, Intel and Boston Scientific. The winners from each regional STEM fair go on to compete at a national final in November 2019. For more information please go to the SciFest website:

About Science Foundation Ireland

Science Foundation Ireland funds oriented basic and applied research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) which promotes and assists the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. The Foundation also promotes and supports the study of, education in and engagement with, STEM and promotes an awareness and understanding of the value of STEM to society and in particular to the growth of the economy. For more information visit