Young Scientist gears up for its 60th year with AI, diversity and mental health under the microscope

Modern concerns dominate at long-running exhibition which has fuelled Ireland’s development, organiser says

The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, the 60th staging of the event, runs until Saturday next as young researchers showcase their endeavours, with a lot of cutting-edge science on display.

Artificial intelligence (including ChatGPT issues), diversity, inclusion and mental health are the four strong emerging trends in more than 2,000 project entries submitted this year.

The BTYSTE is invariably bang up-to-date in reflecting concerns and interests of Irish secondary school students and their responses to a rapidly changing world. This year is no different, as the top 550 projects and hundreds of students will represent their school and community at the exhibition, which runs at Dublin’s RDS over the coming days.

To mark the significant birthday, a new category has been added: health and wellbeing, to go with social and behavioural sciences; technology, chemical, physical and mathematical sciences; and biological and ecological sciences.


Shay Walsh, the managing director BT Ireland, the exhibition organiser, said it was a momentous year. “Since its foundation by Dr Tony Scott and the late Fr Tom Burke, the exhibition has excelled as a platform for inspiring young people to use science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) to understand and improve the world. It has served as a launch pad for many incredible careers, including that of John Monahan, our first-ever winner, who joins us as a judge this week.”


We spoke to Mari Cahalane ahead of this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition #btyoungscientist #rds

♬ One Night - Frank Bramble &

Dr Scott said he never thought their idea would grow to such an extent that it has lasted 60 years “and maybe even 60 more. That is way beyond my imagination. It’s amazing.”

Looking back, he believed the exhibition “has contributed to the development of our country”, and certainly its fast rate of development would not have happened without it. Its success was a tribute to the pupils, teachers and parents, he added.

As the 1965 winner and a judge for the past decade, John Monahan said he is in awe of the incredible talent on show and the ever-rising standard of students’ work. “You don’t see that in lots of other countries,” he said.

His winning entry was on human digestion and his research was conducted in his home-made lab in a shed adjoining his family home in Straffan, Co Kildare. “All my pocket money went on the equipment.”

He went on to study biochemistry in UCD before becoming a key figure in the biotech sector in the US.

President Michael D Higgins will open the exhibition on Wednesday. In a message to participants he said: “There has never been a better time in which to be a young scientist. Yes it is a challenging time, but it is so potentially fulfilling to know that the choices you make will have effects that are important, not just for your own time, but for the very possibility of life itself.”

“The BTYSTE is a fantastic platform for students to develop their best ideas to improve the world we live in and showcase them nationally and internationally,” said BTYSTE head Mari Cahalane. “As one of the largest Stem school exhibitions in Europe, our alumni have been recognised globally, and with the standard of entries for 2024 just as high as years before, we’re very confident that trend will continue.”

More than 200 prizes are awarded, from a prize fund of €50,000, including the overall BT Young Scientist & Technologist of the Year award, which will see the winners represent Ireland at the EU Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS), taking place in Katowice, Poland. Ireland has a strong record of taking home the prize for first place at EUCYS, with 17 wins over the past 33 years.

The exhibition is open to the public from Thursday to Saturday but booking is advised.

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times