Changing the World in your pyjamas

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18-year-old student, scientist and entrepreneur, Ciara Judge from Kinsale, spoke at TedXTeen about how she and her friends may have solved a global food crisis in just their pyjamas.

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Ciara has a very impressive resume under her belt as over the past three years she has won the BT Young Scientist, the European Union Contest for Young Scientists and the Google Global Science Fair alongside her teammate for their research on the work of rhizobium with cereal crops.

Not only that but in September 2014, Time Magazine named Ciara as one of the 25 most influential teens worldwide, and she has been pegged as a ‘rising star’ and ‘one to watch’ by several national and international news outlets.

She is now co-director of her first company, Germinaid Innovations, with Emer Hickey. Last summer, she began work on her second startup PurchaseMate, while studying at MIT, Boston. Ciara is currently working with a global team on a new not-for-profit youth outreach platform called Project Zilkr to provide an online structured programme that inspires young entrepreneurs. Ciara’s entrepreneurial exploits, along with her philanthropic efforts with the Chernobyl Children’s Project.

She speaks to the crowd at TedXTeen about how they came about discovering such a thing and as she says it all started with a curiosity and an unusual growth in her friends garden. They quickly realised that this superhero bacteria could maybe aid growing more useful crops like wheat, oats and barley.

They began to figure out how to grow the bacteria so, they built their own homemade incubator and bioreactor out things they found around the house. After gathering everything they needed and taking up a full room in Ciara’s house, they launched into a chain of very intense experiments. This meant that they had to check over 1,000 seeds every 6 hours to see if they had germinated, they went for two-week blocks with less than 4 hours sleep a night.

This is when Ciara mentions that they were by no means stereotypical scientists, no lab coats, in fact, it was nearly all done in their pyjamas.

She explains that at times when some of their experiments failed, of course, it was disheartening, but they persevered and eventually found a compromise to make it work.

What they first discovered was seeds were most vulnerable when they are first planted to when they begin to grow so they increased their growth rate during the period were the seeds are most at risk to perish due to drought, predators, freeing etc. in half and gave the seeds more of a chance to survive.

But the girls wanted to go a step further to see how the bacteria affected the plants in their later life by conducting a field experiment. She says that “this was the part when everyone said we were crazy” and “assumed it wasn’t going to work”.

After a number of weeks, they harvested the seeds and discovered even more shocking results. They found that using a treatment they created themselves they managed to increase the crop productivity of barley by 74%. Basically, they were able to almost double the amount of crops produced by the same amount of seeds.

With food shortages already an issue in today’s world, by the year 2050 we will have to provide for over 9 billion people so we would need 50% more food and Ciara and her friends discovery could just be the solution.

Reflecting on her journey, Judge explains the most amazing part of it all was that this discovery did not come from a fancy lab with expense equipment but from a spare bedroom. She says people don’t need big office blocks and endless funds once you have an internet connection and determination.

She encourages young people they don’t need to wait till they’re older to pursue those ideas they’ve hidden in their heads, the time to start is now all you need it courage to take the leap. There is nothing wrong with homemade or DIY because it is all about the journey as experience is the best teacher.

Ciara explains to the audience “When I think about those 3 years I spent in that spare bedroom, I can only describe it as magical”. The new mechanism which could change the world was discovered in those four walls by three teenage girls in their pyjamas.

We can push the boundaries, use the assets that are being built to connect us, to empower us then nothing is impossible no matter what people tell us.

She finished with these inspiring words, “the reality is that today more than ever before it is possible for a teenager to change the world in their pyjamas”.

Ask yourself, what will YOU change?

If you want to listen to Ciara’s full talk check the video out here for some inspirational words and see how amazing this young woman is and how you can really achieve anything you put your mind to.

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