Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Sentinus Young Innovators 2015

Hey. I did mean to write this blog post yesterday, but I got home and pretty promptly fell asleep, so that didn't happen. So, yesterday was a very important day for me, one I'd worked very hard for and worried over near-incessantly for the past month. To be honest, it could have worked out better.

It's before 7 a.m. and I'm about to leave for Intellectual Ventures HQ for my mentoring day, so I'm just going to get this account out of the way. 

First, a little background. 

Last year, I entered Sentinus Young Innovators (henceforth SYI) with a project about Fibonacci numbers in pine cones. I'd received only a Highly Commended ribbon in the Young Scientist months earlier, so I wasn't expecting much. I had an amazing time last year, loved the judges and was beyond thrilled to be crowned N.I. Young Scientist of the Year 2014 because it so surpassed my expectations. That's second prize overall, below the Intel prize. What I won qualified me to compete in the Big Bang science fair in England, except I couldn't go because I'm not an N.I. citizen so I just got money. I also won the Queens University Award for Mathematics, another unexpected prize. Then the other girl from my school who entered, Anna, won the only prize higher than mine, the Intel prize, and qualified to represent Ireland in Intel ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) with an all-expenses paid trip to Pittsburgh to compete. My teacher won Intel Educator of Excellence and got an all-expenses-paid trip to accompany her. So we were all thrilled.

My school sent two students in and came out with four top prizes. It was crazy.

I'm very fond of this picture.
So going into this year, I had both very positive memories and very high expectations for Sentinus. Another reason I had high expectations is that my project this year is dramatically different from last year's. I started last year's four months before the Young Scientist and did a bit of work, whereas I started this year's project a year and a half ago and have dealt with a ton of stress and difficulty and hard work from it. It is a subject area I care about, obviously, and I will continue to work on it, but I was hoping they would see how much better this year's project is and judge accordingly. And since I came second overall last year, well, extrapolate from that. Yet another reason is that I was disappointed at BTYS earlier this year. I was sick with nerves, was moved category after my first judging and lost my first judge, lots of things. In the end, the project placed a lot lower than I had hoped it would. That was very demoralising. The last reason is that Anna (girl from my school) came first last year when she was in fifth year, and since I was in the same situation I wanted to get that too. It was great to get into BT Business Bootcamp though and I really appreciate the Seattle trip from Intellectual Ventures. 

This year, SYI was on in Ulster University instead of the Odyssey, which had its ups and downs (ups: food and bathrooms nearby; downs: no wifi or seats, no stage for awards ceremony). Anna drove us the whole way up and back between Drogheda and Belfast, so kudos to her. We got there around nine and set up our projects in preparation for the judging to start around half nine.

I had the standard three sets of judges (judges generally come in pairs at SYI) before lunch, then during lunch I had another five sets. I took that as a good sign, seeing as I had had eleven sets last year when I came second overall, and most of those were after lunch. So it was a bit disconcerting when I got none in the thirty minutes of judging after lunch. The standard of projects was very high this year, definitely higher than last year. My old project could never have won N.I. Young Scientist of the Year or the Queens University Award for Mathematics this year. Which was sad. 

My second set of judges were tough, but other than that they all seemed impressed and said so. Maybe they say that to everyone though, who knows. But yeah, the judgings all went well, I think I did my project justice and they all said good things and took a lot of interest. So I was hopeful.

A guy from CREST came over and signed me up for the CREST Youth Council or something similar, and told me I could apply for the Big Bang Fair online. Another guy, a retired teacher, chatted to me for a while. 

Shortly before heading into the awards ceremony, I heard that one boy with a home genetics lab (one of the many bootcamp projects there) had had thirteen sets of judges. Lots of this stuff gets passed around at science fairs, but there were big TV cameras at his stand and everything. So we all thought he'd definitely win. 

The ceremony took ages to start. This one group whose names I can't recall won a ton of prizes, including the sensor prize. I won two, the Gold Science Award (senior category winner) and the Norbrook Award for Best Laboratory Practice. So I got mini trophies (about half the size of last year's) and some money. Which was nice. Niamh won her category (intermediate science so the Silver Science award) and we're all really proud of her. And that was it, there were no more prizes for my school. They didn't offer the I-SWEEEP prize for electronics, which was disappointing. 

Loreto Balbriggan did what we did last year, taking the top three prizes. They didn't get the Queens award, though. So I guess our school couldn't win all the prizes again. 

I wasn't even upset to start with, just very surprised. It really did seem like the judging had gone better. I hadn't even known Lauren (Intel winner) was there. It really does bother me that I did better last year with a project that's not even in the same league, but I think I dealt with it well.  Anyway. 

Anna, Ms O' Regan and I went in one car and the other girls went in another, then we all met up at McDonalds and gorged ourselves. I had a chilli chicken wrap, chips and a berry smoothie. Ms O' Regan had Apple Pies, which she loves. We all ate lots, it was nice. It was really sunny too so we sat outside and chatted. It was very different from last year, when we were elated, or this year at Young Scientist, when we were upset. We were, on the whole, pretty average. 

Anna then drove us home to Drogheda. I fell asleep a few times on the way but we chatted and got on a good bit. She's a very good driver.

When I got home, there was more to be stressed about. And I was anxious to do that presentation for the research group, but then fell asleep so I couldn't even do the blog post. Sigh.

Yes, yesterday could've gone a lot better. 

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