Caoimhe McCormack and Jamie McDermott from St. Michael’s National School, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath receive their 3rd place winning trophy from Simon Meehan, BT Young Scientist Winner 2018 at the Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START) Competition in NUI Galway. Pictured far left is the pupil’s teacher, Sean Beirne. Back row and far right were: BT Young Scientist Runner-Up Winners 2018, Darragh Twomey, Neil O’Leary and Andrew Heffernan. Photo: Aengus McMahon
Jun 12 2018 Posted: 15:07 IST

Pupils from Primary Schools in Co. Kerry, Co. Westmeath and Co. Galway were the first, second and joint third place winners of the recent 2018 Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START) Competition, which took place at NUI Galway.

The triumphant young scientists were presented with their winning trophies from BT Young Scientist winner 2018, Simon Meehan from Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig, Co. Cork and BT Young Scientist runner-up winners 2018 Darragh Twomey, Neil O’Leary and Andrew Heffernan from Colaiste Treasa, Kanturk, Co. Cork.

The START competition, now in its third year, is run annually by the Health Research Board - Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN) based at NUI Galway. The programme is designed to increase young children’s understanding and awareness of randomised clinical trials and educate pupils about why we need randomised trials to improve healthcare nationally and globally.

St. Joseph’s National School, Kinvara, Co. Galway won first place for their randomised clinical trial, The effect of fidgeting on concentration. The pupils noticed that some students fidget a lot when listening. They investigated the effect this had on their concentration by comparing concentration scores between the control groups who sat with their arms crossed, and the test group, who had blu-tack to fidget with, whilst listening to their teacher. Somewhat surprisingly, results suggest that fidgeting is good for concentration…as long as it’s silent!

Glinsk National School, Castlerea, Co Galway won second place for their randomised clinical trial, Do extra educational maths games improve test results? The pupils investigated whether extra educational maths improve test results. They found that playing a maths game did in fact improve maths scores, in both addition and subtraction, for the most part.

Due to the quality of the entries, the judges were unable to pick a stand-alone third place winner and a joint third place was announced. Pupils from St. Michael’s National School, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath won joint third place for their randomised clinical trial, Can ten minutes of daily exercise increase students’ fitness? They evaluated if ten minutes of daily exercise increased the pupils’ fitness and found a slight effect but not enough to be conclusive about this result.

Pupils from Meentogues National School, Headford, Killarney, Co Kerry also won joint third place for their randomised clinical trial, How much can teachers influence us? The pupils investigated how much teachers influence pupils and found that having a teacher in the room does indeed influence a pupil’s choice.

Professor Devane, Director of the HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network at NUI Galway, said: “The START competition shows that with the support of their teachers, children can not only engage in research, they can also do it to a really high standard. Every day children, like adults, are exposed to health claims. Many people, including health care professionals, lack the knowledge and skills needed to access and assess the reliability of information underpinning these. We believe that the START project helps empower children to think critically about health claims and make better informed choices. The Schools and parents of these children and teachers should be very proud indeed.”

Sarah Chapman, Knowledge Broker at Cochrane UK based in Oxford, added: “I was privileged to be one of the judges for the START competition this year, and was so impressed by what these pupils achieved. Not only have they shown that they can choose a research question and then design and run a trial to answer it, they have also presented their work with such clarity and creativity that many ‘real life’ trialists could learn from them.”

The Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START) Competition, is an initiative of the NUI Galway-based Health Research Board – Trials Methodology Research Network, to celebrate International Clinical Trials Day, and the anniversary of the first clinical trial which was carried out in 1747 in the British Navy.

For more details about the START Competition, visit: https://www.hrb-tmrn.ie/public-engagement/start-competition/

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