1st Place START competition winners 2016, 6th class students from Scoil Ide, Corbally, Co. Limerick. Photo: Aengus McMahon
May 15 2017 Posted: 12:38 IST

NUI Galway based Health Research Board – Trials Methodology Research Network shortlists three primary school clinical trials as part of the START Competition 

Three Primary Schools from Cork, Dublin and Galway have been shortlisted to showcase their randomised clinical trials at NUI Galway on Friday, 19 May, when the overall winner will be announced and presented with the START Trophy 2017. Now in its second year, the purpose of the competition is to help students become aware of the clinical trial process.

The randomised trials created are part of the Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START) competition, an initiative of the NUI Galway based Health Research Board – Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN), to celebrate International Clinical Trials Day on 20 May.

Sixth class students from St. Joseph’s Primary School from Macroom in County Cork created the trial, Colourful Concentration – Do children concentrate more or less when they use coloured pens? The trial was coordinated by their teacher, Lisa Cooper.

Fourth class students from Scoil Mobhí National School in Glasnevin, County Dublin created the trial, Can interactive spelling games improve spelling? The trial was coordinated by their teacher, Fiona de Bhól.

The entire school of 15 students from Cloghans Hill National School in Tuam, County Galway created the trial Music our memories – friend or foe? Does listening to music improve memory recall (or are our parents right and it is a distraction)? The trial was coordinated by their teacher, Iseult Mangan.

Each school followed the START competition guidelines to design, carry out and evaluate their very own randomised trial, meeting several key aspects of the school curriculum. Students were asked to choose a simple, easy to answer question and use the proper steps of a clinical trial to answer it scientifically, using the resources provided on the HRB-TMRN website.

Commenting on the START finalists and their projects, Professor Declan Devane, Director of the HRB-TMRN at NUI Galway, said: “We started this competition for two reasons. Firstly, we wanted to raise awareness of the importance of randomised trials with children. Secondly, we wanted to harness the creativity and imagination of children in the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of trials. The high standard and variety of applications we received demonstrate that the START competition has indeed raised the awareness of randomised trials and capitalised on children’s innate ability to explain difficult concepts clearly and in a fun way. We are very proud of all our applications and wish each of the finalist schools the very best on the 19th May in Galway.”

Dr Máiread O’Driscoll, Acting CEO of the Health Research Board, commented: “If these kids are the future then I feel very comfortable. By designing and conducting their own randomised control trials, each team has shown they can be inventive, apply scientific rigour and report their results in an engaging way.”

Dr Sandra Galvin, Coordinator of the HRB-TMRN at NUI Galway, said: “This initiative has really captured the children’s imagination and creativity but I also think we can learn so much from their approach. Trials can be complex and challenging for people to understand, and yet here we have children rising to this challenge so well. START is about breaking down the barriers in the understanding of trials, and helping people understand the power trials have to improve healthcare for all.” 

At the awards ceremony in NUI Galway, the students and their teachers will be treated to 16 interactive and educational workshops featuring everything from live snakes, to bacteria, to squid dissections, and entertaining STEM shows; Kitchen Chemistry, Cell Explorers, Bug Doctor, Galway Neuroscience Centre, MARIO Project, Translational Medical Device Lab, Blood Cancer Network of Ireland, Human Physiology, REMEDI Stem Cell Therapy Clinical Trials, Marine Bio-Facts: Aquarium Show and Tell, Translational Statistics – HRB CRF Galway, Bacteriology NUI Galway, Toodlelou Labs Oranmore and Designer minds camps.

As part of the event, students will also be given the opportunity to meet MARIO, a companion robot designed to support people with dementia mitigate the effects of loneliness and isolation, and view a demonstration of his various abilities, including playing music and reading the news.

To learn more about the HRB-TMRN START competition visit: www.hrb-tmrn.ie or follow on Twitter at twitter.com/hrbtmrn or @hrbtmrn and Facebook at facebook.com/hrb.tmrn. 

-Ends- 

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