On May 17th, the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences hosted secondary school students who presented projects at the 2018 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition and/or at the 2018 PE Expo. The department has been hosting this event since 2014 as it provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to engage with students who have demonstrated an interest in sport and exercise science, physical education, health and physical activity related disciplines.
There were 47 students (24 male and 23 female) from 17 post-primary schools who attended the event. Students, teachers and parents were welcomed by the Head of Department, Dr. Giles Warrington at the first session. As well as informing the students about the Physical Education and Sport and Exercise Sciences undergraduate degree programmes, Giles highlighted the key research areas in the department (sport pedagogy, food and health, sport and human performance, physical activity and health and golf performance) and illustrated the application of sport and exercise science using numerous examples and feats in Sport. From Usain Bolt’s 200m world record to David Walliams swimming the 140 mile Thames River; the application of sport and exercise science is evident and necessary for many human performance accomplishments.
Students were given an opportunity to attend two workshops in the department. In the Exercise physiology workshop titled “The Physiology of an Athlete’s muscle” students investigated the contractile characteristics of skeletal muscle through EMG and electrical muscle stimulation. This workshop was led by Teaching Assistant Alan Griffin and postgraduate student Caoimhe Tiernan. The Sports Biomechanics Workshop “Testing the Limits of Human Performance” considered how biomechanics can push the boundaries of athletic performance and students had an opportunity to see a demonstration of laboratory and gym based monitoring equipment used in elite sports. This lab was facilitated by Biomechanics Lecturer Robin Healy and postgraduate student Evan Crotty. The Psychology Workshop led by Teaching Assistant Dr. Phil Kearney and postgraduate students Paul Kinnerk and Joey Murphy was titled “How do we train eye hand coordination?” In this workshop, students assessed their eye-hand coordination and considered whether it can be trained using specific devices.
After the workshops, the students presented their research projects (8 minutes) in three parallel sessions, to their peers and faculty and staff in the department. Dr. Brian Carson, Dr. Tom Comyns and Rosemary Daniel each chaired a session, and all remarked on the high standards of the presentations and how impressed they were with the students delivery of their research. There were presentations on nutrition, concussion, injury, motor skills and sport psychology. The overall Senior Category PE Expo Winners from Coláiste Muire Cobh, Cork presented their project “Protein – diet or supplement” as did the overall Junior Category PE Expo Winner, Jaia Kavanagh (Loretto College, Balbriggan, Dublin) with her project “Does positive reinforcement help sports teams win?”
The students’ enthusiasm and passion for both science and their projects were apparent and their confidence in presenting was surprising at times for such young researchers. The students explained where their inspiration for their research started, the challenges they encountered and overcame on their research journey, how they developed hypotheses, ran pilot tests and experiments, collected and analysed data and how their final conclusions were drawn.
In the afternoon, students had an opportunity to listen to PESS faculty and staff (Rhoda Sohun, Dr. Ian Kenny, Dr. Catherine Norton, Rosemary Daniel and Munster Rugby Strength and Conditioning Coach Feargal O’Callaghan) talk about their career paths, the various career opportunities for the Sport and Exercise Scientist and the application of Sport and Exercise Sciences in their respective disciplines.
Finally, first year Sport and Exercise Sciences student, Conor Cantwell addressed the students. Conor, a previous student of CBS Kilkenny and overall category winner of the PE Expo 2016 provided an account of his past research project (functional movement screening and risk of injury in young GAA players) and how it evolved over two years. Conor illustrated the extensive CV he has built up in the area of strength and conditioning and coaching. Throughout his first year at university, Conor has volunteered with Munster Rugby age grade division and he is an example to all students of how it is possible to manage academic study while engaging in volunteering roles. Conor’s passion for working in the area of sport science is evident and he reiterated all the speakers’ advice that having a passion for the area you are studying makes the learning more enjoyable and easier.
We hope to see some of these talented young students enroll in our undergraduate courses in future. From what we saw today, these bright young minds would certainly strengthen any academic programme!
PESS would like to thank the students and schools for attending this event and PESS staff (especially departmental administrator Madeleine O’Sullivan) for assisting at the event.
Rhoda Sohun is a Senior Technical Officer in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences. She is undertaking a PhD part-time in the department and her research focuses on the role of the parent in the socialisation of children in physical activity. Contact Rhoda on Rhoda.Sohun@ul.ie