callum copyThe Midlands Science Festival team was delighted to catch up with  Scoil Mhuire Fatima in Timahoe this week to hear all about some of the wonderful achievements the school has had in science in recent years. Heading into its third year, the Midlands Science Festival promises over 90 events across the region this November, making it the biggest and best science festival the region has seen yet.

Jackie Gorman, Midlands Science Festival Director said,

‘There is a long history of achievement in science and maths in Scoil Mhuire Fatima and we are delighted to have been able to work with the staff and pupils over the past few years bringing in events such as the Reptile Zoo Village and seeing the impact these type of events have made. We are looking forward to delivering another exciting science show for pupils this year which starts with heating and friction and seeing the colour of materials change with heat. Students will find out how planes fly with hovering sweets and balloon helicopters and they will also be exploring waves, rockets, air cannons and how to play musical instruments from twirling tubes to boom whackers and straw kazoos! It’s really all about making science fun for this age group and hoping that this will have an impact for future learning opportunities.’

‘Scoil Mhuire places vital importance on science and maths education and it has always been our goal to introduce an understanding of these critical subjects as early as possible in school. Once pupils gain an interest and appreciation of science through the more hands-on, fun activities and attending Midlands Science Festival events, it stays with them. It is so important to make sure we share our successes so all the projects we engage in are displayed for parents as well as students. The school has enjoyed an excellent reputation for science in recent years and we hope that by continuing to engage with the relevant competitions and these types of fun events, we will encourage many more of our students to consider science as a career option in their future years.’

Scoil Mhuire Fatima has been awarded the Excellence in Maths and Science award for the last 4 years and former young Scientist projects have included one on worms, one on the Timahoe Esker and another on linking wind and temperatures to predict weather. In addition, the school enjoyed the prize and title of ‘All Ireland winners of the Intel Mini Scientist’ last year with “Murderous Mascara’ which was a project by two 4th class pupils, Roisin Dunne and Jamie Boyle. This is the 4th year for the school to take part in Intel Mini Scientist and last year all of 4th class and their teachers were treated to a VIP visit to Intel in Leixlip.

Something to Tickle your Taste buds..Science of Chocolate!

chocchocolate image 1This year, we are delighted to be hosting a new event all around the science behind one of our most favourite things!
Kilbeggan Handmade Chocolate was started three years ago by Michael Donegan and this company is a bean to bar chocolate maker. One of only 6 artisan bean to bar makers in Ireland, Michael and his team make milk and dark chocolate and various handmade trufflesat their base in Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath.
KHC now employ 3 people and supply over 50 Supervalu stores through their food academy programme and various other stores in Ireland. They have  also started to export to the US, Australia and Europe!
On Friday November 13th, as part of the Midlands Science Festival, we will be visiting KHC with our friend and toxicologist Dr. Craig Slattery to learn all about chocolate and the science behind it. Check our events page for more details in the coming weeks!
Here are a few things we learned last year…
We love chocolate, so you can imagine how pleased we were when we recently heard that it can actually be good for you! Check out some of the best reasons we can find not to feel guilty about indulding!
  • The amount of caffeine in chocolate is quite low compared to coffee and other things we sometimes claim boost one’s energy.
  • Chocolate is a natural painkiller.
  • Dark chocolate aids the “good” bacteria in your body.
  • Eating chocolate can help prevent tooth decay.
  • Chocolate’s scent increases the amount of relaxation-inducing brainwaves.
  • Regularly eating dark chocolate reduces ones risk of heart disease.
  • Eating dark chocolate can help protect your skin from being damaged by the sun.
  • The anti-oxidants in chocolate will keep you looking young

…And one of our favourite Irish scientists/friend to the Midlands Science Festival, Professor Luke O’ Neill, recently informed us that its just a myth that chocolate causes acne, so better again! Everything in moderation of course!

Fun at the Fire Station!

Nuala Nally and Nathan Fire StationNathan Nally Henson and his mum Nuala enjoyed a really fun and informative visit to Athlone Fire Station ahead of this week’s National Fire Safety Week. The Midlands Science Festival team will be making a return visit to the Fire Station during Science Week to teach local pupils all about fire safety, the equipment used and the important procedures we need to know all about.

During the next visit, children will have the opportunity to ask some of the friendly Athlone fire officers questions about fire safety, get a tour of the facility, see the engines and get a feel for how it all works when the station gets a call out.

Fire safety begins at home..Here are some simple tips to teach children..

Create an easy to follow escape plan and a safe meeting place outside your home.

Practice fire safety and keep your home safe! Ensure children know about the dangers. It can be simple things like making sure they aren’t too close to the hob while something is cooking or keeping candles out of reach if lit. The majority of fires within the home begin in the kitchen.

Install Smoke Detectors! Statistics show that more than half of all fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms, and nearly three quarters of fire deaths occur in homes without alarms or with non-functioning alarms.
And don’t forget to test them! Make sure the batteries are good and that the smoke detector itself is in proper working condition. Working smoke detectors save lives.

Keep a fire extinguisher in a handy location. The best location is typically just inside a door or entrance, out of the reach of children. Remember, a fire extinguisher is no substitute for the fire station officers, but it can be used to stop a small fire from getting out of control.

Keep safe during Fire Safety Week and always!

Behind the Scenes at Midlands Science Festival 2015!

Jackie and Eddie

The countdown has begun and with less than eight weeks to go until this year’s national Science Week and the Midlands Science Festival kick off, we are really gearing up to make it our best year yet!

We’ll be serving up an exciting feast of around 90 activities and events for all ages so please keep an eye on our blog and events page for updates and news which will be coming your way very soon.

This year’s festival will provide something for all ages. In particular, we want to ensure that we are really focusing on younger audiences as our research tells us that the earlier we can get into classrooms to start promoting science, the better.

We are really pleased to have the Reptile Zoo back again to entertain children with a variety of exotic animals and the Irish Wildlife Trust and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland who will be teaching children about environmental awareness through participation in a range of games and activities. We are also very excited about bringing the Exploration Dome to a Midlands primary school where pupils will learn about earth science, maths and astronomy and there are lots more workshops, shows and surprises from star gazing to bogs and insects to sea creatures right across the region this November.

We look forward to celebrating the wonders of science with you all!
Science Week 2.0 – be inspired, get involved and design your future!

Photo: One of our key speakers, Dr. Eddie Murphy with Midlands Science Festival Director,
Jackie Gorman at Clara Bog Visitor Centre, Co. Offaly.

Choose a Career of the Future – Choose Science!

New_1_Nathan and Nuala WestmeathPhoto: Nathan Nally Henson and his mum, Nuala from Athlone finding out that its never to early to start learning about science and the world around us (Clara Bog Visitor’s Centre)

The Midlands Science Festival team, welcomed the recent news that there has been a significant increase in the percentage of Leaving Certificate students sitting the science subjects of physics, chemistry and biology. This rising interest in science follows on from a recent analysis of Higher Education Authority (HEA) data which indicated a noteworthy rise in the number of Midlands students entering third level courses in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) last year. The analysis, when compared with a similar study carried out in 2008 shows an average increase of approximately 41% in the share of students studying STEM across the Midlands during a six year period.

Lucy Prendeville, a Leaving Cert student from the Midlands achieved an amazing 8 A1’s in her exams and she said, ‘I was so delighted to receive my offer to study Nanoscience at Trinity College this week. I have loved science from a very young age and think it is so important to start encouraging pupils as early as primary school level about what an adventure it can be to explore science and all its wonders. Events such as the Midlands Science Festival ensure that children as young as five years old have the opportunity to see how certain elements of science work, but in a more fun and often lighthearted way. I dressed up as a scientist for a primary school fashion show years ago; that’s how young I was when I fell in love with science!’

SFI Discover, the education and public engagement programme of Science Foundation Ireland, organises national Science Week which aims to catalyse, guide and inspire the best in STEM education and public engagement. Heading into their third year, Atlantic Corridor will host the Midlands Science Festival again this November with over 60 events already planned for the four counties across the region.

Jackie Gorman, Director of the Midlands Science Festival said, ‘Just like previous years, this year’s festival will provide something for all ages. In particular though, we want to ensure that we are really focusing on the younger audiences as our research tells us that the earlier we can get into classrooms to start promoting science, the better. We are really pleased to have the Reptile Zoo back again to entertain children with a variety of exotic animals and the Irish Wildlife Trust and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland who will be teaching children about environmental awareness through participation in a range of games and activities. We are also very excited about bringing the Exploration Dome to a Midlands primary school where pupils will learn about earth science, maths and astronomy and there are lots more workshops, shows and surprises from star gazing to bogs and insects to sea creatures right across the region this November.’

Nationally this year, 57,929 students sat the Leaving Certificate, compared to 56,990 in 2014. Some subjects with increasing student numbers are Chemistry (a 3.9% increase from 2014), Physics (a 4.6% increase) and Applied Mathematics (a 12.5% increase).

Many of the global medical technologies and pharmaceutical companies now have a dedicated presence in Ireland and it is critical that we ensure the adequate talent pool is available to them here in the Midlands. A recent report by accountants Grant Thornton concluded that while Ireland continues to outperform its competitors in attracting FDI there are still issues that need to be addressed such as skills shortages within the ICT, science and engineering sectors.

Lucy Prendeville continued, ‘Everything in today’s word is moving faster and everything, when you really think about it has a science element. If you choose science as a third level discipline you will have so many career options available to you; the opportunities are endless. We do need to look at encouraging more women into science in particular. My course will be very male dominated and it would be great to see that changing in the coming years.’

Ibec, the group representing Irish business, welcomed the fact that the added interest in science was translating into increased demand for third level science and technology courses. First preference applications have increased by 28 per cent for honours science degrees in the last five years.

Much of the work being performed by Atlantic Corridor in STEM promotion is as a result of relevant national links and international partnerships which have been developed and fostered over the past ten years. By continuing to work with key corporate and academic partners, the hope is that the number of students pursuing science and technology at third level will continue to rise and we can work towards ensuring the necessary human resource pool is in place here in our local economy.

Jackie Gorman continued, ‘The increase in the numbers of student taking science subjects demonstrates how people are now really listening to national messages about the many career advantages in science fields and therefore the importance of a relevant, high-value qualifications. We hope that this also means that targeted educational events like the Midlands Science Festival are starting to have real effect.’ will be updating in the coming weeks so keep an eye on news of the events coming to a town or classroom near you during November of this year.

Many Midlands Students Unaware of Science Career Opportunities

Dr Craig Slattery at LynchsLocal teens are not necessarily avoiding science career choices due to the subject being too difficult or not cool enough. It may in fact be the case that they are simply not aware of the multitude of science related jobs there are out there, according to a recent survey of a selection of Midlands schools by the organisers of the Midlands Science Festival.

Jackie Gorman, Festival Director said,
‘While we found enthusiasm for science remains high among students, an overwhelming 95 per cent of those questioned admitted they knew very little about potential career options in science related fields. It was also worth noting that 3 out of 4 students who were surveyed would like science to be taught differently, for it to be more fun and engaging and connected to real life!

The Midlands Science Festival, supported by Science Foundation Ireland, is now heading into its third year in this region and one of the main objectives of this week-long event is to demonstrate the many exciting career opportunities available within Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths disciplines. The festival team has also recently commenced another new Midlands based project entitled, Science with Inspirational Mentors (SWIM) which places a strong emphasis on mentoring from role models and champions from those in the science education and corporate sectors. The project, also supported by Science Foundation Ireland, complements the national Smart Futures programme.

Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government stated, “It is vitally important for students to have events like the Midlands Festival and Smart Futures to open their eyes to the variety of pathways available when pursuing careers in science, engineering or technology. The Smart Futures programme is managed by Science Foundation Ireland in partnership with Engineers Ireland to ensure students and their parents and teachers have ready access to young people working in science, engineering and technology. Students are encouraged to visit to read about people studying and working in a variety of exciting areas from food science to cybersecurity.”

Jackie Gorman added,
‘The aforementioned research suggests there is a real urgency to ensure that young people are getting the best type of careers advice possible and by taking it beyond just the classroom and into real working environments, we hope we are going in the right direction. We need to increase interest in these fields and work towards inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. If you are a second level student who is still undecided about your career path, the Midlands Science Festival which is due to take place this November will certainly provide plenty of stimulation and hopefully help you to make more informed decisions about your future options.’

For further information please contact: Jackie Gorman on

Festival Success….

Craig Jonathan garyWith over fifty events ranging from entertaining FameLab workshops and enthralling reptile visits to science bubble shows and brilliant presentations on ‘why we age’ and the scientific heritage of the Midlands, there really was something for all age groups during this year’s Midlands Science Festival. It was therefore no surprise that the number of people in attendance this year reached over 4,500 people. Events were held in venues around the region with many taking place at Athlone Institute of Technology, others in schools and even outdoors.

Jackie Gorman, Director of the Midlands Science Festival commented,
‘I am delighted at the success of our second Midlands Science Festival, which as promised was bigger and better than the one we ran last year in. It was wonderful to see so many families attending some of our new events such as ‘Stargazing on the Bog’ on the final night and it was also fantastic to see some of our key speakers interacting with audiences in very relaxed settings such as libraries, pubs and cafes this year. Organising such a large event is certainly a challenge but one we really enjoyed and I wish to thank Science Foundation Ireland, all of our partners, speakers, performers and host venues once again for making this all possible.’

Visitors to this year’s festival also had the opportunity to attend talks by some of Ireland’s leading scientists (See Tullamore Alchemist Café in photo). It was great to see audiences of all ages, ranging from school pupils and teenagers to highly respected science experts, communicators and professors. The festival is a fantastic way to really capture the imagination and show people that science can be fun.

A good number of Midlands students also had the opportunity to avail of some high level careers advice from companies such as Cpl Recruitment and Midlands based multinational technology firm Ericsson, who are also on board as a key partner to the 2014 Midlands Science Festival.

The organisers of the Midlands Science Festival also wish to thank the public, many of whom travelled from beyond the region to attend some of the events which took place this year.

Jackie Gorman continued,
‘We have been overwhelmed by the level of enthusiasm and goodwill from our partners, local media, venues and many other organisations and individuals throughout the region. The large public turnout totalling over 4,500 people in attendance shows the appetite for this type of regional event and after another successful year, we can hopefully look forward to bringing the Midlands Science Festival back to this region again.’

Bubbles, bubbles everywhere!

Bubble shots Steve scoil mhuireSome very happy pupils enjoyed the Bubble Show today when Bubble Master, Steve Allman returned to the Midlands Science Festival to entertain and enthral with his many tricks ….all relating to bubbles!

We loved the fact that the pupils asked such great questions how does smoke stay in the bubbles and how do the bubbles stay over your head!?

Keep an eye out for some impressive photos which we will be adding to the site later this week. This really was a very magical, colourful and fun event … evident in the endless cheers that could be heard coming from the school’s PE hall all day today!

Fun with Radio and Reptiles!

close up snake St. PetersSee below podcast of our time with snakes and spiders yesterday in Athlone!

Day Two a Great Success!

black and white teguToday really was hectic but we are relieved that everything went well! We had more sunspotter workshops, this time in Crinkle, Birr and also one in Longford. Children in Athlone had the chance to pet a boa constrictor and watch a tortoise in action as the Reptile Zoo Village visited for the day and then it was back to AIT for a public talk by NUI Maynooth’s Dr. Fiona Walsh on Antibiotics Resistance.

Across the region in Laois, we had some science friends down from UCD’s Food for Health divison to talk to students Heywood Secondary School while back in Offaly, we had BT Young Scientist winner Edel Brown in Killina school for another inspiring student talk. Sile lane returned for a school workshop while Iggy McGovern and Catherine Ivers hosted a very different cultural event in the Luan Gallery on ‘The Poetry of Physics.’

To finish off an incredible day, a packed audience was entertained by one of Ireland’s leading scientists, Luke O’ Neill on ‘Why we Age’ and Luke was joined by Sile Lane of Sense About Science and Jonathan McCrea of Newstalk /The Science Squad. Today’s schedule was jam-packed but we are thrilled to say there really was something for everyone and the Midlands Science Festival 2014 is still young!

For now, time for some rest before another busy day tomorrow!