Teenagers win science and engineering honours


Two talented teenagers have scooped top awards in this year’s National Science + Engineering Competition.

Two talented teenagers have scooped top awards in this year’s National Science + Engineering Competition.

Sarah Sobka, a 17-year-old pupil at Sheffield High School, was awarded the UK Young Scientist of the Year title for her research into new drugs for cystic fibrosis patients.

Sarah’s project examined a drug that is commonly used to treat women with irritable bowel syndrome to see if any of its characteristics could be applied to create new and more effective drug treatments for cystic fibrosis.

“I was absolutely shocked to even be in the top five, so to have won the UK Young Scientist of the Year award is an amazing feeling,” said Sarah, who did her research during a placement at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Biomedical Science.

Meanwhile, Colum McNally, 18, a pupil at St Colman’s College in Newry, Northern Ireland, was named UK Young Engineer of the Year for a project that aims to make farming safer.

Colum, who comes from a farming family, designed and built a safe and low-cost hydraulically operated agricultural machine that combines the functions of log splitting and fence building. These tasks typically require two machines, both of which are dangerous to operate.

“I’ve been involved in engineering from a young age on the farm, just building bits and pieces as we needed them, and it’s amazing to think it’s taken me this far,” said Colum, who hopes to study mechanical engineering at university.

Imran Khan, chief executive of the British Science Association, which runs the National Science + Engineering Competition, said that Sarah and Colum’s projects had caught the judges’ imagination. He added: “We need to nurture a new generation of bright sparks and this competition offers a great incentive to get youngsters experimenting and having fun with science and engineering.”

Both students received their prizes, including £2,000 each, at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair in Birmingham earlier this month. For information about next year’s competition go to www.nsecuk.org

CAPTION: Next generation: (from top) Colum McNally and Sarah Sobka pictured with their UK Young Scientist and UK Young Engineer of the Year awards respectively. They are also pictured at work on their projects (Photos: British Science Association)



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