Global science communications project for festival…

FameLab kids picWe are so pleased to announce something new and exciting for this year’s line-up of events. ‘FameLab’ is an exciting competition to find the new voices of science and engineering across the world. It was started in 2005 in the UK by Cheltenham Science Festival and has quickly become established as a diamond model for successfully identifying, training and mentoring scientists and engineers to share their enthusiasm for their subjects with the public. Working in partnership with the British Council this global competition has already seen more than 5000 young scientists and engineers participating in over 23 different countries from Hong Kong to South Africa, USA to Egypt. In the USA, NASA is our FameLab delivery partner.

Liz McBain, North-South Programme Manager for the British Council (Ireland) commented,  ‘Science plays a part in so many aspects of our daily lives even if we don’t often realise it. FameLab works to inspire the next generation of science communicators by identifying young scientists and engineers and training them to be more equipped to debate, discuss and be challenged by science. We are really excited about bringing FameLab to this region during the Midlands Science Festival 2014.’

Director of the Midlands Science Festival, Jackie Gorman said,

‘The search is on for the new voices of science communication in the Midlands. During the Midlands Science Festival, a FameLab showcase will be held at Athlone Institute of Technology. This will include a competitive event between the existing Famelab alumni, a workshop called Futurelab which will be aimed specifically at aimed at 8-12 year olds from a selection of Midlands schools and a careers workshop involving some of the existing Famelab alumni. This is a fantastic addition to our events and the result will hopefully be a new network of scientists engaging both other science enthusiasts and potentially new audiences, but also engaging with each other. ‘

Roll  on tomorrow!


Science strives to answer questions…

We are really looking forward to our Sunspotter workshops which will be taking place in a number of Midlands schools this week as part of the Midlands Science Festival..

I caught up with Aine Flood and Peter Gallagher of the Citizen Science Alliance at Trinity College to find out more……

‘Our job at the Solar and Space Weather Group in Trinity is to use data from ESA and NASA satellites to understand the Sun and how it effects us here on Earth. We also run the Rosse Solar-Terrestrial Observatory in Birr (, which is equipped with antennas and other instrument to continuously monitor solar activity and its impacts on the Earth’s magnetic field. We are particularly interested in forecasting solar flares and solar mass ejections, which can produce the northern and southern lights and cause problems in telecommunication and GPS systems.’ Peter Gallagher, Head of the Solar and Space Weather Group

Aine, what is the Citizen Science Alliance?

The Citizen Science Alliance is a collection of many scientists, software developers and educators from all over the world who work together on internet based projects to improve their research as well as other peoples understanding of both the science and how scientific work is done. They invite everyone to become a citizen scientist by collaborating with them online and offering their time and skills to help sort through large collections of data.

Why is public engagement important for this project to succeed?

The public are our collaborators for this project and all the others in the Zooniverse collection. Without the public offering their time and energy to help classify the sunspots we wouldn’t have a project! It’s really important for us to engage with the public and tell them how much they are helping real scientific research by participating in SunSpotter. This is an Irish based project, thought up and created by solar physics researchers in Trinity College Dublin. Our team uses the results to help forecast solar weather which affects a lot of things here on Earth such as radio communications, contact with orbiting satellites, and of course any astronauts in space need to know if a solar storm is about to strike.

What can we do to ensure we encourage the next generation consider science as a career?

The more scientists that talk to young people about their work, what they do and why they do it, the clearer it is that science is a fascinating and important part of all our lives. Some people, especially children are always asking questions, trying to figure out how things work and wondering why everything happens as it does. Science strives to answer these questions. Our understanding of the world around us, and indeed the whole universe, has improved greatly due to answers we have found through scientific research and observation. But one of the best things about science is that often these answers lead to even more questions. We don’t know everything, there’s still lots to discover!

Are you looking forward to being involved in the Midlands Science Week and why are events like this important for Science promotion?

Yes, we are really looking forward to it! We are delighted to be involved with the team at the Midlands Science Festival. Events like this encourage people to get more involved with spreading science. Whether you want to have a chat about it at an evening talk or get ‘hands on’ and learn something new at a workshop there’s something for all ages and interests. These events also give scientists an opportunity and platform to engage with an interested public and tell them why their research matters. This clear dialogue is essential for better understanding and appreciation of science.

If you wish to learn more please see

The Travels of Curious Kim…

ploughing bDon’t forget to follow our lover of all things science and virtual brand ambassador on Twitter …@curiouskim1 for plenty of updates on our upcoming events …

Our loveable Midlands Science Festival mascot really has been all over the Midlands in the lead up to Science Week, so check out her page for lots of facts and figures that show how science really is all around us!

The Earlier the Better…

D15192-0079We had great fun with Jonathan McCrea (Newstalk’s Futureproof/the Science Squad) and Professor Luke O’Neill (one of Irelands leading scientists) recently in the grounds of Trinity College Dublin for a Science Week photo-shoot..
But when we actually think about it, this photo really captures a lot of what Science Week is all about.  At the Midlands Science Festival, it is so important for us to try to inspire the youngest of minds and to allow them to see science as something fun and interesting and not something that is too difficult or complicated.

Young children are by nature very curious so the years of early childhood really are the perfect time to encourage a love of learning and especially a love for science. Always try to provide opportunities for your children to experience things in a hands-on way, increase their curiosity and see how much they will love it, as well as the time spent with you! My own love nothing more than a wander around the grounds of our local castle in their wellies or a family bike ride in Lough Boora where we happen to have a very special stargazing event this year!

Answer all of their little questions because children are constantly learning, as we should be too! Join us next week in celebrating science across the region, you never know what you might discover!

Rediscovering Waste!

rediscovery centreWe are delighted to be bringing something very different to this year’s festival in the form of recycling. The Rediscovery Centre is a social enterprise dedicated to providing community employment and training via innovative reuse enterprises which use waste and unwanted materials as a resource and raw material for new product design.

Rediscovery Centre scientists, designers, business managers and craftsmen are united in a common purpose of sustainability through resource efficiency and life cycle design.  We are really looking forward to welcoming our friends from the centre as they bring demonstrations and educational activities to the region this year, which highlight the benefits of effective resource management and encourage everyone to REDISCOVER the value of waste.

Join us for Tales of the Unexpected….

Jonathan McCreaThis unique audiovisual experience is a free event for the Midlands Science Festival but booking is essential.. See Events page for details..

We’re all going to the movies with Newstalk’s Jonathan McCrea and it’s going to be like nothing you’ve experienced before. Join Jonathan as he introduces some of the best science stories from the world of animation, radio and television. We’ll be seeing everything from astronomy to zoology in a series of movie and documentary clips which have been specially curated for the festival by this award winning broadcaster.

You’ll learn a bit more at this evening about being science media savvy and you’ll get to enjoy some amazing short movies and radio clips that will make you think about how important science is in our society. Science Movie Night was one of our biggest hits at last year’s festival so please book now for this event.


Taking Science out of the Lab…

Luke-ONeillWe are so excited about our Alchemist Cafes where this year we will be taking science to the theatre and even to the pub!

See Events page for details of our Alchemist cafes where you will have the opportunity to hear from Ireland’s best known scientist Prof Luke O’Neill, an amazing science communicator and also Sile Lane of Sense about Science, for an evening of discussion and debate about the hot issues in science and how they affect our lives.

Prof Luke O’Neill was a huge hit at last year’s festival and he has recently been named in the top 1% of scientists world-wide due to his ground-breaking work in immunology. Sile Lane is passionate about science and encouraging people to ask for the evidence in a world where it is often difficult to distinguish between science and pseudoscience or clever marketing. Join these two inspiring science communicators for an entertaining evening of science discovery and discussion. This evening will be chaired by award-winning broadcaster Jonathan McCrea of Newstalk’s Futureproof programme

Professor Luke O’ Neill said, ‘Science Week is all about inspiring the next generation of scientists through hands-on learning and experience. The ongoing scarceness of qualified Irish scientists certainly brings challenges so I am really keen to get involved in anything which promotes the fantastic adventure and exploration that science can be. The more young people we can encourage to choose a science-related career path, the more significant discoveries we are likely to have coming out of Ireland into the future.’

Join us on the night of Nov 11th at Athlone Institute of Technology, but remember to book your free ticket through this website!

Science Selfie Reminder….

Ploughing aThere isn’t long to go so we just wanted to remind you that if you see our virtual brand ambassador, Curious Kim  in a place near you over the next week or two, please take a selfie with her, tweet it and you could win a great prize!
You can look out for us in a town, school, shopping centre, tourist spot and many other places as we will be continuing to bring Curious Kim on tour around the Midlands and beyond!
Why not get into the spirit of the Midlands Science Festival and help us celebrate Science Week 2014…


Brightest of Minds Set to Inspire in Westmeath

D15192-0019With under a week left until the Midlands Science Festival kicks off across the region, don’t forget to book your free place at some of the many  hands-on science and technology activities that have been planned by local development organisation Atlantic Corridor. The aim is that this festival will encourage wider participation of the next generation in science and related fields.

Jackie Gorman, Midlands Science Festival Director said, ‘One key objective is to approach science in a new and inspiring way, fusing theatrical performances with expertise and content. This event provides a fantastic opportunity for people of all ages to really engage with the wonders of science and its relevance and importance to each and every one of us.’

We are looking forward to bringing a number of expert speakers into schools in Westmeath this year. These included Cpl recruitment director Judith Moffett, Fergal O’Brien who currently heads one the largest regenerative medicine research groups in Ireland and  Cork native, Síle Lane is Campaigns Manager at the UK organisation Sense About Science, Jonathan McCrea of Newstalk and Futureproof and more.

This festival really does have something for everybody and it will hopefully help people to focus on science in a more stimulating way. Don’t miss out on what promises to be a really fun-filled week for all.’

Networking at SFI Annual Science Summit…

Jackie at Summit SFIWe had the pleasure of attending the annual Science Foundation Ireland Science Summit in Athlone today where Director of the festival, Jackie Gorman, addressed a large audience of like-minded scientists and researchers at one of the summit workshops on ‘Engaging the Public with Impact’.

This year’s summit was attended by 300 members of the science and research community and focused on the theme “Illustrating Impact” including what impact means and the numerous forms of wide-ranging impact from economic impact to societal impact.

Commenting, Jackie Gorman said,

‘Since 2007, Atlantic Corridor has worked on STEM education issues as part of its strategic plan. Relationships and sustaining them are really important – no one writes a cheque or provides resources to a festival or outreach programme for no reason so you have to think of what you are doing as providing a service. Measuring impact of a STEM outreach program can be challenging. Having mechanisms to learn about each other and get together in the way we are doing today will promote the formation of collaborations that will help each programme accomplish more than they could alone.’

This summit provides an important networking platform for SFI researchers to meet with colleagues and allows them to discuss and debate national science policy, relevant issues and progress. We found this to be an excellent way of meeting lots of people from both Ireland and abroad who are involved in similar pursuits as ourselves when it comes to science education promotion and we look forward to reconnecting with some of them again soon.