Spotlight on BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition: IRC special award winners

Posted: 21 January, 2022

Students of Scoil Pól in Kilfinane, Co. Limerick, Shane Shinnors, Aisling Daly and Daniel Gammell have won the Irish Research Council special award at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2022 for their project on Seasonal Affective Disorder: ‘Are you SAD or have you S.A.D?’.

The special award commends the best project combining more than one branch of science or combining science with humanities and/or social science. To celebrate their achievement, we asked the winners to tell us about their project and what they hope to do after graduating.

What was the subject of your winning project, and what inspired you to pursue that research topic?

We had read about Seasonal Affective Disorder during the lockdown in November 2020. We were interested in the methodologies behind the treatments. They ranged from light therapy to antidepressants. This shocked us as we thought those treatments were worlds apart. We decided to investigate light therapy to see if it actually worked.

We designed our own Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp as we felt the existing ones were not aesthetically pleasing to be used in a home. We tested it out on a number of participants over a 4-6 week period. Every day the participants logged their mood on a survey that we designed. We discovered over the time period the lamp was successful and did improve the moods of the users. In comparison to this, we found that the moods of our control group (who did not have the seasonal affective disorder lamps) fluctuated immensely throughout the testing period.


The production of the lamp from the initial cutting and shaping to light fitting and polishing took roughly 15 hours to complete.


Our lamp has a dual purpose, it can be used as a home lamp and as a seasonal affective disorder lamp. We also wanted to make it accessible for the user by designing an app named ‘Solas Sona’, on this app we want you to control the lamp functions on your smartphone. We named this app Solas Sona because it means happy light and we wanted to link it to the Irish language. We were interested in tracking the mood of the user so we aim to install a mood tracker on the app so the user can log their moods throughout the week.


What does the Irish Research Council special award mean to you?

We were ecstatic to have been awarded this award. It is our first year entering the BT Young Scientist as a school so we did not know what to expect. We worked extremely hard over the last few months and feel that receiving the Irish Research Council award acknowledges our hard work.

What are some of the benefits of independent research for students in Ireland?

It enables us as students to broaden our scientific knowledge and understanding outside the classroom. It allows us to put what we have learned in Science over the past number of years into practice by designing our own research experiment and collaborating with our peers. We gathered results and were able to interpret them. We thoroughly enjoyed doing this project and are extremely proud of how much we have achieved so far.


Pictured left to right: Daniel Gammell, Aisling Daly, science teacher Aisling O’Connor, and Shane Shinnors.



What are your plans after you leave school?

Aisling: After school I would be really interested in studying civil engineering, ideally in Galway. I would study there for 5 years to get my masters degree. I’m very independent and have no fear of travelling there on my own. I’ve always had an interest in engineering and construction, and would love to work on site. I’m always looking for new challenges so the problem solving nature of this career would suit me. I also love to travel and once restrictions lift I can’t wait to get back on a plane!

Shane: After school I hope to venture into the Accounting Science and Business Management route. I do Accounting and Business in school and I really enjoy doing subjects. I love learning new things. I would also love to travel once I finish school. The ultimate goal of mine would be to set up my own business and become an entrepreneur and develop my leadership skills further. This project enabled me to apply my skills and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Daniel: After school I would like to branch into the field of civil engineering. I have a great passion for design and drawing. I also enjoy the practical side of designing things so I would also look into carpentry. I am very passionate in the subjects of Construction and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG). I enjoy problem solving and in this project I loved designing the potential shape and design of the lamp. It was amazing to see the process over the few months and it solidified for me that I would like to pursue a career in engineering.

For further details about Aisling, Shane and Daniel’s methods and key findings, watch their project video:

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