Arva schoolteacher Gavin Doyle has every reason to offer up more than a satisfied smile at the minute.
Earlier this month, four of his students saw off allcomers to claim first prize in the much talked about ‘The Only Way is Up’ competition - an innovative science based challenge fronted by the University of Limerick.
As a secondary school teacher stationed in nearby St Nessan’s Community College, Gavin supported the four members-Jason Hannon, Jonathon Roche, Jamie O’Connell and Kevin Hanley-as their suitably named ‘The only way is building up’ project won over judges from home and abroad.
The winning project had been designed to investigate the effects that microgravity has on the solidification of reinforced concrete.
Initially, over 200 students signed up to the competition. Before Christmas, that was whittled down to 35 projects with the winning entry being chosen by University of Limerick lecturers and two international experts from Canada.
As well as the many accolades the quartet will also be able to see their project take to the skies as it spends 30 days orbiting the earth.
Part of the Orbital Sciences Orb-2 mission to the International Space Station, the experiment will then be returned to the students to determine the overall impact of zero gravity.
Those tests aren’t expected to take place until late September and early October, a date Gavin and his four budding scientists of tomorrow cannot wait for.
“It is a great honour for St. Nessan’s Community College to be representing Ireland in space exploration and it will give the students involved a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Gavin.
The competition is the first of its kind in Ireland and was run through IComp which is based in University of Limerick in partnership with US firm NanoRacks.
In their submission, the winning quartet illustrated their own confidence in what they had undertaken, stating: “We feel this project would really help the future of space exploration.”
Clearly, the competition’s eagle eyed judging panel felt the same way. The sky, as the old adage goes, really is the limit.