TWO Laois teenagers have scooped a national excellence award for a pioneering project that reduces stress in children with autism.
Mountrath Community School students Aoife Dunne and Alice Carew competed against some of the top young minds in the country at the 2018 SciFest national finals on Friday 9 November.
They were delighted to receive an ‘Excellence in STEM’ award for their project, which analysed sound sensitivity in children with autism and created a device to alleviate the distress it causes.
The fifth-year students were presented with the award at a ceremony held in the Marino Conference Centre, Dublin, which was attended by minister for communications, climate action and environment Richard Bruton. They secured their place in the national finals after winning the SciFest regional finals in Carlow Institute of Technology.
Aoife and Alice conducted a pioneering nationwide survey on sound sensitivity in children with autism, paying particular attention to its frequency and manifestation. They then developed a prototype for a device to alleviate the distress caused by sound sensitivity and trialled it to test its efficiency.
Overall, 93% of participants recorded significantly decreased negative impact from sound during the two weeks of using the device.
Last year, Alice won first prize in the Laois Student Enterprise Awards for her mini-company Lulls, which provides wireless headphones for people with autism or sound sensitivity.
SciFest is an all-island STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) initiative that fosters “active, collaborative and inquiry-based” learning among second-level students. More than 10,000 students took part in local and regional SciFest STEM fairs across the country this year, with 63 students involved in 37 projects reaching the national finals.