Making Sense of Maths!

We are delighted to be welcoming Dr. Ciarán Mac an Bhaird from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Maynooth University back to this years Midlands Science Festival to deliver more local secondary schools maths talks!

Student Quotes from Dr. Mac an Bhaird’s talk last year:

“It was really interesting to see how different area of maths are linked.”
“I liked when he showed us that Pythagoras Theorem always works no matter what the numbers are.”
“I found his proofs interesting.”
“I liked the links between all the methods in the talk and the common number at the end”

Its Ploughing time again in the Midlands!

The National Ploughing Championships has made a return to the Midlands for 2017 and we would like to wish everybody involved in the management and running of the event the best of success for another year! It takes place just out the road from us in Screggan, Tullamore, Co Offaly from today September 19th until the 21st. The total attendance figures for the 2016 Championship came to a record breaking 283,000. This marks the most successful National Ploughing Championships in history.

In recent years in particular, we are being made all the more aware of the importance of nature and the significant role it can play when it comes to our health, well-being and functioning. There is no question that getting out into nature gives us a sense of escape from the stresses and strains of day to day life. Doing something as simple as going for a long walk can really help to put things into perspective; to help us learn not to worry so much about the smaller things. Exploring nature is also a way of creating memories that can be cherished forever by children.

Everybody is so busy these days and many of us forget about the importance of play, exploration and family time but there really is a lot to be gained by taking a step back and remembering how important it is for the whole family to unwind and therefore refresh.

There are over 1,700 exhibitors at the event featuring exhibits in Energy, Forestry, Livestock, Machinery, Construction, Agri Business, Auto Arena, House and Home, Food and Beverage, Health and Wellness, Lifestyle and Tourism, Information Technology, Business and Education.

And the good news for children; there are picnic areas, a playground,  a funfair and bandstand entertainment. Why not take advantage of this glorious day and head to the Ploughing Championhsips with your family. There is fun and learning in it for everyone!

Photo: Tracey from one of our most popular events, Junior Einsteins Science Club, visiting the NPC with our own Curious Kim in 2014!

 

 

 

 

Mini Scientist Fun!

Excitement is building as we are getting very close to finalising our programme of events for this years’ festival which takes place in just 8 weeks time!

We are as always making it a priority to ensure we have as many events as possible which target young children as feedback and research has told us that early-childhood education is a perfect time to introduce future generations to the joys of scientific discovery in a fun and interactive way. We really enjoy bringing lots of innovative activities to primary schools and this can include everything from introducing them to reptiles and sea life to opening their minds to experiments, explosions and easy to understand demonstrations. It is our hope that this will help ensure we have a rich population of STEM enthusiasts here in this region for the future economy.

Keep an eye out for lots of new workshops and activities we have planned for the mini scientists of the Midlands coming very soon!

Looking back on 2016!

We are now busy preparing for our fifth annual Midlands Science Festival but we just wanted to take a quick look back on some of the key highlights of last year’s event to give you an idea of how people were inspired by science in a variety of different ways!

One of the things that we always tend to discover through feedback is that people love being able to speak to scientists and to meet people who have a similar mindset to them so this is something that we try to ensure happens every year by bringing in scientists such as Dr. Craig Slattery of University College Dublin, career advisors like Anne Scally from Pro-Activ Management and experts in particular fields such as ornithologist Ricky Whelan from BirdWatch Ireland.

We also seek to engage a number of postgraduate research students to come and speak at our festival each year as it’s a great opportunity for them to hone their communication skills and have the chance to let people know what area of science they are involved in, to explain their work and of course to talk about why they’re doing it. With this in mind we had talks about nutrition from Food Health Ireland, engineering insights from Intel, maths workshops from NUI, Maynooth, technology lessons from iConnect and lots more!

Younger audiences were entertained and informed by our friends from the Exploration Dome, the Reptile Zoo Village, Anyone for Science, GSI, Sustainable Energy Ireland, Go Fly Your Kite and a number of other fun and exciting performers last year.

We cant wait to fill you in on what’s being planned for this year so keep an eye out for more news soon!

The Countdown Begins….

Back to school means one sure thing for the Midlands Science team..with just over 10 weeks until the annual Midlands Science Festival/national Science Week, we spent a lively afternoon in the spills of rain yesterday taking our launch photos (the things we do for science!) and we are now knee deep in all sorts of fun, exciting and informative ideas to make this our biggest event yet as we celebrate five years since our first festival in 2013.

Keep an eye for news of what will be happening this year and dont forget to get in touch ASAP if you would like to host a free event in your school this year as slots are filling up fast! #believeinscience

Letting Nature have its way!

Each year, during the last week of August, local community organisations participate in National Heritage Week which is coordinated by The Heritage Council and its main aim is to promote awareness and facilitate education about our national and regional cultural heritage.

Midlands Science works closely with some of the heritage offices here in the Midlands and in particular we would like to thank Catherine Casey, Heritage Officer for Laois County Council who is always on hand to help us brainstorm new and innovative ideas and also to support and enable a number of Midlands Science Festival events to take place across Co. Laois.

This year National Heritage Week will be celebrating the diversity of Ireland’s nature. Over the past five years our own science festival has also tried to take on an element of encouraging people of all ages to get outside and experience science and nature for themselves. By getting organisations such as Waterways Ireland, Laois County Council, Irish Wildlife Trust and Clara Bog Visitors Centre on board we have been able to celebrate nature and all it has to offer while at the same time promoting the fact that science is all around us.

Best wishes to National Heritage Week. We are looking forward to junior nature photography competitions, some exciting discovery walks, bee keeping displays and a little bit of bird and bat watching!

Check out the programme for yourself on http://www.heritageweek.ie/whats-on/ and find out what is happening in your local area from today and all week!

Successful Science Show Learning for Mountrath School

 
Local development company Midlands Science recently collaborated with the Community Foundation of Ireland to provide an assortment of engaging and interactive workshops for the pupils of Scoil Bhride in Mountrath. The National Reptile Zoo visited the school in June and the girls and boys had the opportunity to get up close and personal with some scaly creatures such as a snake, turtle and lizard. They also enjoyed energy and electricity workshops with ‘Anyone for Science’ and the ‘Rediscovery Centre’ and they also had a lot of fun with the teams from ‘Junior Einsteins Science Club’ and ‘Go Fly Your Kite.
Jackie Harrison, Head of Development for the Community Foundation said,
‘The Community Foundation was delighted to partner with Midlands Science in order to deliver a variety of science shows to Scoil Bhride in Mountrath over the past six months. From the Reptile Zoo Village to investigations in static electricity using a range of materials, we hope that pupils got to experience first-hand the fun and scope of science learning. The Community Foundation for Ireland works with donors to optimise their philanthropic giving and in 2016, there were over 70 donor advised funds at the Foundation which enabled us to work with over 4,000 community and voluntary organisations to create social impact in Ireland. It was wonderful to be able to provide this funding in the Co. Laois and hopefully it will inspire more young people from across the Midlands to consider science when choosing future subjects and career options.’
Mary Keegan principal at Scoil Bhride in Mountrath said,
‘We were delighted to welcome a number of wide ranging science performers to our school over the past year with thanks to Midlands Science and the generosity of a private donor who provided funds for these events through the Community Foundation.
We are very grateful to all parties who enabled this to happen as we believe that by creating a more fun and innovative approach to learning science, pupils will have a much better appreciation for how diverse, exciting and far-reaching science actually is. We look forward to more future science shows here in Mountrath and in continuing to spread the message that science is so important for the future and is all around us in so many aspects of life.’
 
Ends

Seeking Science Communicators!

For the past five year, the Midlands Science Festival team has been working with science engagement professionals to help us reach new audiences, improve how we carry out our work and continue to promote science as a critical part of culture and society.

Every year we try to find and build relationships with people who are interested in having or facilitating conversations about science and highlighting just how much it is a part of everyday life. Science communicators help shape our thinking. They help us to make science more accessible, help us to come up with new and innovative ways to spread science stories and they often introduce us to a more diverse range of new networking and learning opportunities across the different sectors of science communication and engagement.

Our events are for all people of all ages involved and interested in conversations about science, whether you are a scientist who does science communication as a part of your job, a volunteer, or a full-time professional in science communication and public engagement. If you would like to talk to us about getting involved in some of the work we do please get in touch and we look forward to hearing from you.

Science isn’t just for one week. Science is for life!

We are really pleased to announce something new for 2017!

Barry Fitzgerald, scientist at ICMS / TU Eindhoven & writer of book ‘Secrets of Superhero Science’

Barry Fitzgerald – Research Scientist at Delft University of Technology, Speaker, Scientific Communicator and Author-will be presenting at this year’s Midlands Science Festival as part of our partner mini festival  in Co.Longford this year. I caught up with Barry to find out more…

Barry, we are delighted that you will be taking part in this year’s Midlands Science Festival. Can you tell us a little about what attendees can expect at your event?

First of all let me say that I’m really looking forward to being a part of this year’s Midlands Science Festival. When I was asked to be a part of the festival I had no hesitation in saying yes to the invite. Thank you very much for having as part of the festival.

The superhero genre has become one of the most popular in modern cinema. Each year numerous superhero films are released and 2017 is no exception. In fact just before Science Week Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League will be released. As a result superhero characters such as Thor, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash will all be the subject of media coverage around the time of the Midlands Science Festival. I’m sure that many people would love to have the superpowers of some of these characters.

During my talks at the Midlands Science Festival the audience are going to hear about some of the incredible scientific research from around the world that could lead to the superpowers of the superheroes in the future. I’ll be talking about the science behind Iron Man, Spider-Man, the Invisible Woman and many other superheroes. In addition I’ll also be talking about the ultimate superhero – Santa Claus. Every Christmas Santa travels around the world, a journey that is made possible thanks to his advanced science and technology. I hope to inspire some of the audience to think differently about science, to think differently about superpowers and to possibly pursue a career in science and engineering in the future. Who knows someone at the Midlands Science Festival could be the first person to build and wear a fully working Iron Man suit!

What is your background? Did you study science at university?

I have a degree in Applied Physics from the University of Limerick and a PhD in Computational Physics from the same university. In 2012 I moved to the Netherlands to continue my research career. I’ve worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Twente and Eindhoven University of Technology. Currently I’m working as a researcher in the 3mE faculty of the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). My current research is focused on biomass energy, computer simulations of fluidized bed reactors, collective motion in people and birds, and the rheology of polymer systems.

What initially steered you towards a career in science?

When I was younger I was enthralled by mathematics. I remember I finished “Busy at Maths 5”, my 5th class maths book, three months before the end of the school year. It wasn’t until I went to secondary school that I became fascinated by science. Back then I didn’t have access to a resource such as the Internet. Perhaps if I had access to such an amazing resource my interest in science might have started at a younger age. During my Junior Certificate years I always remember being fascinated by physics given that it combined mathematics with a study of how matter moves through space and time. When it came to my Leaving Certificate I selected a series of numerical subjects including applied mathematics, physics, chemistry and accounting. For a time I even contemplated becoming an accountant but the attraction of physics was too great to ignore. While growing up I was also captivated by the idea of time travel from films like the Back to the Future trilogy and Star Trek 4. I read quite a few popular science books about time travel and the possibility of building a time machine. These books highlighted the importance of physics and mathematics to realizing time travel, which, I should add, is not prohibited by the laws of physics (well time travel to the future is definitely possible). My reading, my interest in mathematics and passion for physics all served to influence my decision to pursue a career in science.

Please tell us a little about your books.

I’ve written and self-published two popular science books – Secrets of Superhero Science and Secret Science of Santa Claus.

In the Secrets of Superhero Science I describe the fundamental science that you would learn at school and current scientific research that could lead to superpowers in the future. I discuss the possibility of creating the X-Men, replicating the power of invisibility possessed by the Invisible Woman and the possibility of building Spider-Man’s web-slingers. In addition I also discuss the implications of introducing superpowers to modern society.

In my second book, Secret Science of Santa Claus, I discuss the science and technology behind perhaps the greatest superhero of all time – Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus delivers present to millions of children around the world. This extraordinary endeavour would be impossible without Santa’s innovative technological gadgets.  In the book I describe the science behind Santa’s flying reindeer, his cutting-edge weather prediction methods and why Santa Claus is an ultramarathon runner. I also discuss how Santa’s gift-bringing will change onwards into the 21st century. Right now I’m busy working on my next book, which I hope will be ready for the first half of 2018.

 

Why are national events like Science Week so important do you think?

The importance of national events such as Science Week cannot be understated. First and foremost Science Week is a unique platform facilitating connection and engagement on scientific matters and concepts with the general public. I first presented workshops as part of Science Week in 2015. That week was a fantastic experience as I spoke about many topics in science at a number of schools around the country. I enjoyed being part of Science Week so much that I cameback again last year to speak in schools, bookshops and libraries. In addition I opened Science Week 2016 at the University of Limerick.

Science Week is an opportunity for researchers and those working in scientific communication to inspire the next generation of scientists in addition to astounding people of all ages. Science Week is a chance for scientists to tell the public about some of the incredible scientific advancements taking place right now and how it will impact on their lives in the near future. Importantly the science is explained in an accessible language and using relevant connections to the real world. When anyone attends one of my Science Week workshops I want him or her to engage with science in a unique way and to think differently about science. The relevance of science in modern society is often forgotten and even taken for granted. Science Week promotes the importance of science for the real world and encourages the general public to engage with science on a daily basis. Science isn’t just for one week. Science is for life.

Mullingar Students Explore Science at the Royal College of Surgeons

As part of the ongoing work of local development company, Midlands Science, to promote science education in the Midlands, a group of transition year students from Loreto College, Mullingar recently visited The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and the Centre for Systems Medicine (CSM) Research Laboratory. This event was co-ordinated by Dr Helena Bonner Scientific Liaison Officer CSM, RCSI and Ms Pauline Nally of Midlands Science.

Students were welcomed by Head Porter, Mr Frank Donegan who gave them a historical tour of RCSI.
Other highlights from the day included students observing brain cancer cells under the microscope and learning about different forms of cancer. They also heard from our researchers about their projects including epilepsy and neurodegenerative diseases. Students also received a lecture on how research has changed in recent years with a special focus on communication and collaborative skills, being an important aspect of the job.

Professor Jochen Prehn, Professor of Physiology and Medical Physics & Director for the Centre for Systems Medicine, RCSI said, “I am delighted to welcome the students to RCSI and the CSM laboratories. Hopefully they got a real experience for what life is like for scientific researchers and perhaps it will lead to them considering a career in scientific research”.

Special thanks to the following researchers for volunteering to take part in this event: Dr Beatrice D’Orsi, Dr Catriona Dowling, Dr Teresa Moloney, Dr Isabela Aparicio and head porter Mr. Frank Donegan.

RCSI is ranked 46th in the world for ‘International Outlook’ and #251 – 300 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2015-2016). It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said, “We feel that a true understanding of science involves whole-life learning beyond the confines of any classroom. It is so important that when learning science it includes innovation, up to date resources, engagement and partnerships which enable the students to connect learning to actual real-world situations. With this in mind we place a strong emphasis on mentoring from role models and champions in order to encourage and nurture curiosity about science and a visit like this is an ideal way to achieve this.”