Video: Irish students hoping to make it to the global stage with agri-inspired projects

Two Irish secondary students are hoping to make it to the global stage of the SciFest competition with their agri-inspired projects.

SciFest is an all-island STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) initiative which fosters active, collaborative and inquiry-based learning among second-level students.

A record number of 8,000 students took part in the competition this year, exhibiting their projects in local and regional science fairs across the country.

The national final is being held in the Marino Conference Centre today, November 10, where the winners of the 16 regional competitions will present their projects.

The winning student(s) will be awarded with an all-expenses-paid trip to represent Ireland at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in May 2018 – as well as a trophy. This prize is sponsored by Science Foundation Ireland and Intel Ireland.

Tractor Safe Lock

One of this year’s competitors is 15-year-old Jack Nagle, who invented the Tractor Safe Lock – a device which automatically engages the handbrake in a tractor if the operator forgets to do so when exiting the vehicle.

The young student won the regional SciFest event in Tralee and has competed in numerous competitions with the device already this year.

SciFest Tractor Safe Loc
Jack Nagle from Killorglin Community College, Co. Kerry

Speaking to AgriLand, Nagle – who is a student in Killorglin Community College, Co. Kerry – said: “It’s a device I created that automatically engages the handbrake when the driver puts the tractor in neutral and gets up off the seat.

“My grandfather had an accident while he was attaching an implement after he forgot to pull the handbrake. I thought something should be done about it, so I started researching online,” he said.

During the research and development of the project, Nagle decided to incorporate the feature that the tractor must be in neutral for the device to work – to prevent the handbrake being engaged if the driver bounces up out of the seat while driving on rough ground.

Currently it costs the young student approximately €400 to install the device on a tractor. It is already installed on his grandfather’s tractor at home.

Nagle already has the design of the device copyrighted and patented and he is in the process of getting it CE approved.

Nutritional benefits of beet as cattle feed

Meanwhile, Adam Kelly – from Moate Community College, Co. Westmeath – is also competing in the national final of SciFest, having won the regional event in Athlone.

His project is titled ‘Can Beet Beat Other Cattle Feeds?’. Kelly studied the nutritional benefits of beet as a cattle feed compared to other cattle feeds.

As part of the project he studied the impact of a beet diet on the daily live weight gain of weanlings, as well as monitoring rumen fermentation rates.

He carried out the tests on his own family farm. During an initial test, Kelly found that beet was deficient in phosphorus, so he decided to repeat the test using a high-phosphorus mineral to supplement the beet.
Adam Kelly from Moate Community College, Co. Westmeath

In the second test, Kelly fed six Charolais-cross weanlings silage and 5kg of a high-maize ration a day. He also fed six Charolais-cross weanlings silage and 5kg of beet with the high-phosphorus mineral.

Regularly weighing the animals, the student found that the cattle being fed the beet outperformed the cattle being fed the high-maize ration in relation to daily live weight gain at the end of the trial.

The cattle in the test were weighed regularly

As part of his research, Kelly indicated the average live daily weight gain of the animals on the beet diet was 1.8kg/day. The average live daily weight gain of the cattle on the high-maize ration diet equalled 1.46/kg, he added.

He also tested rumen fermentation rates by monitoring changes in the contents of fresh rumen samples over an eight-hour period, both before and after the addition of beet to the diet.

The winner of the national finals is scheduled to be announced this afternoon.