The Young Scientists’ Exhibition was the brainchild of two UCD Physics researchers, a Carmelite Priest, the Rev Dr Burke and Dr Tony Scott. In the US in 1963 they discovered “science fairs” and tailored the idea for Ireland.
The first competition was held in the Mansion House Round Room in Dublin. Aer Lingus handled administration and promotion. The competition had 230 participants. The first winner was John Monahan, who went on to become Chief Executive Officer of Avigen, a US Biotech company. He now sits on the boards of biotechnology companies on both sides of the Atlantic. Success created demand for a bigger venue. Scott, a member of the RDS science committee, identified a common interest and the competition moved to the RDS and has remained there ever since.
Early Exhibitions involved individuals competing under subjects related to the curriculum. Re-categorisation came in the 1970s with new Science Syllabi. Biology in particular had a large uptake. Today it represents the largest Senior Cycle Science Subject
The Institute of Physics sponsored the first “special” awards 1981. This allowed the Science committee build up a series of special prize sponsors in various fields. Group entries were also introduced and this enabled multi-disciplined managed projects to develop.
From early on, overall participants did very well internationally. Mary Kelly Quinn (1976) won the European competition. Today, overall winners go to the European Competition. Others may go to the USA for the International Science and Engineering Fair.
By 1990 the three established categories were Chemical, Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Social and Behavioural Sciences; Biological and Ecological Sciences. When Aer Lingus ended sponsorship, a new key sponsor was needed. The Young Scientist Exhibition represented the lifestyles and thoughts of young people. That fitted the ideals of a new communications technology enterprise, BT, who has sponsored YSTE ever since. One does not always have to score goals to help teams win matches and BT brought the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition a sense of fun. BT extended administration and revitalised publicity. Technology was introduced as a new category. Separate spaces made “hands on” interactive science available. BT also acted on research, which had identified that teachers’ involvement drives participation. Projects submitted though Irish are always welcomed and BT award a Special prize for the best project with potential submitted through the medium of Irish. In 2015, visitor numbers soared to an all-time high at 59,500, as did entries with 2077 projects being entered. BTYSTE assists personal development, team building, communication skills and social development. Students change from shy and quiet to having new confidence and maturity, a lasting experience. Public understanding of science, links between research science, technology, innovation and economic development are also facilitated. After forty years a growing there seems no reason why this trend should not continue into the twenty first century.