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!

Stressed Out? Try some Friendly Bacteria!

Following on from our piece on Mental Health Awareness last week, according to today’s Irish Examiner, taking a daily probiotic could be an effective way of reducing your stress levels and improving your mental well being.

A study of 22 healthy men found that volunteers who took a probiotic for a month experienced less daily stress than those given a “dummy” placebo supplement.

For full article: http://www.irishexaminer.com/examviral/science-world/feeling-stressed-probiotics-could-help-chill-you-out-according-to-science-360070.html

Sports and Performance Nutrition – Back to Basics!

In recent years, the government is increasingly focused on healthy eating for children and young people and this is of course becoming even more important with the growing threat to their well-being from inactivity and obesity.

We are delighted to welcome Karl Cogan to this year’s Midlands Science Festival where he will address a Midlands school on the topic of Sports and Performance Nutrition. Karl is a PhD Researcher  in the Exercise Metabolism and Nutrigenomics Research Group, at UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research.

We caught up with Karl in advance of the festival for a chat…

Why is it important to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after playing sport?

A reduction in bodyweight of approximately 2% due to sweat loss can negatively impact both cognitive and physical performance. While loss of body fluid during exercise is inevitable, there is no reason why an athlete should commence exercise in a dehydrated state. Therefore, ingestion of fluid before and during physical activity can help to mitigate the effects of fluid loss on sporting performance. Ingestion of fluid after exercise is important to replace that lost during physical activity.

 

What advice would you give to teenagers around healthy eating at exam time?

This might seem very cliché, but eating a well-balanced diet, full of fruits, vegetables, and avoiding highly processed foods, will help maintain energy levels and concentration. Try to avoid taking highly caffeinated beverages late a night as this can significantly impact upon sleep quality, and as a result, cognitive function. Late night caffeine fuelled cram sessions are no guarantee of success and I’d certainly advocate a good nights rest instead.

 

Do we need sports supplements or are they a waste of money?

While this might seem like a simple question, unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. For recreational athletes, again, a well balanced diet should provide all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals required for general health and recovery from exercise. However, sometimes it isn’t always possible to get the nutrients we require directly from whole food. For example, the quantity of food required to meet the nutritional needs of certain athletic populations is difficult to attain through whole food. As a result, supplementation is often required for athletic populations. Additionally, nutritional requirements change throughout our lifespan. Supplementation represents an important intervention that can be utilized to enhance different aspects of health. Consequently, we should avoid exclusively focusing on their use as a means of solely enhancing sporting performance.

 

We have heard that carbohydrates and fat are the two main fuels for exercising muscles. Is protein important too? If so what is important for?

Carbohydrate and fat are the two predominant sources of energy fuelling exercise. Their relative contributions to energy production are influenced by the intensity of exercise, individual fitness level and diet. There is, however, a modest increase over time in the amount of energy derived from protein during prolonged aerobic endurance exercise. While not as important for fuelling performance, protein is crucial for appropriate recovery from exercise with the type, timing and amount required important considerations.

 

There are many sports nutritional myths out there in the media, is saying its necessary to carbo-load before races or a big sports event one of them?

Similarly to hydration, it is important to avoid exercising in a carbohydrate depleted stated, if optimal performance is the desired goal. Generally, for events lasting 60 minutes or less, it is not necessary to carb-load, as carbohydrate availability is not the limiting factor in performance. For longer endurance based events of moderate to high intensity, however, a pre-event carbohydrate loading phase may improve performance. There is no one single answer to any given nutritional question. Like most things in nutritional and exercise science, answers are very much dependent on the individual context of a situation.

 

Apart from the one we all know, calcium is necessary for healthy bones, what else is it good for in the body?

In addition to maintaining healthy teeth and bones, calcium is an extremely important mineral for many different processes within our bodies. It plays an extremely important role during muscle contraction, blood clotting, facilitating nerve signal transmission and release of other hormones and chemical messages.

 

Are muscle cramps caused by dehydration?

There are many hypotheses as to why muscles cramp, for example, dehydration and metabolite imbalances. The short answer is, we don’t know, but it is most likely due to a combination of factors rather than any single cause.

 

 

Stories of Science Success

scoil mhuire science 1The Midlands Science Festival team was delighted to catch up with Fionnuala Doheny, principal of Scoil Mhuire 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.

With some of the science based activities explored at Scoil Mhuire, it is back to basics such as learning all about what floats and what sinks or gaining an understanding of light and dark through the study of shadows, but more recently students have had the opportunity to build rockets and ipads have also been used lately to access science and engineering and maths information. The school recently worked with ‘Get Smart Media’ and completed lessons on graphic keyframe animation, frame by frame animation and video editing and computer programming. In addition to all of this, a number of pupils recently visited Tullamore Library to hear from a female speaker working in the world of engineering, 6th Class pupils visited Tullamore College science lab where they were shown science topics and experiments from the second level curriculum and some also had a visit to multinational company, Ericsson in Athlone where they were given a tour of the facility and learned about the research being carried out there.

Jackie Gorman, Midlands Science Festival Director said,

‘There is a long history of achievement in science and maths in Scoil Mhuire 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 Science Bubble Show and the Reptile Zoo Village and seeing the impact these type of events have made. We have also been in a position to deliver JUMP Math to the school in partnership with Ericsson and the philosophy around this programme is founded on a belief that all children have the capability to perform well in maths but its methods aim to remove common myths and psychological barriers to effective learning in this essential subject.’

Scoil Mhuire has received several awards from Science Federation Ireland dating back to 2006 when the school first achieved Digital school status. In 2010 the school was awarded Science and Mathematics Excellence and this was repeated again recently in 2015.

Fionnuala Doheny said,

‘Scoil Mhuire has always recognised the importance of science and maths and it has always been our goal to introduce an understanding and love of these subjects as early as possible in the classroom. It is our belief that once an appreciation of maths and a curiosity of science is established, often through fun activities such as maths trails, boat making or attending Midlands Science Festival events, it will stay with them forever and indeed many of our past pupils have taken up careers in the world of science and maths. This year two of our past pupils have achieved scholarships from the Naughton Foundation as recognition for their outstanding results in the Leaving Cert. Both students are taking up science courses at third level.’

Warning: This show promises blood, guts, gore and more!

Sneezes, wheezes, sickness and diseases are never welcome. But in the past, some of the treatments could be worse than the underlying illness. Join the time-travelling ‘Doctor Death’, Simon Watt, to see if he can ‘cure’ you at this exciting Midlands Science Festival event which will take place in St. Mary’s Hall in Athlone on Saturday, November 7th from 3pm.

Simon Watt is a biologist, writer, science communicator and TV presenter. He runs Ready Steady Science, a science communication company committed to making information interesting and takes science based performances into schools, museums, theatres and anywhere else that will have him!!

Increase in BT Young Scientist Entries

According the today’s Irish Times, record numbers of students have signed up for the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition taking place next January at the RDS.

Half of all secondary schools across Ireland are sending students to take part this year, with a whooping 2,048 project entries received.

Girls are continuing to outpace the boys when it comes to participation, with 62 per cent of entrants female and 38 per cent male. It looks as if some 4,449 students are hoping to take part, according to BT Ireland

BT organises the event with the support of the Department of Education and Skills, Analog Devices, Intel, Perrigo and RTÉ.

The exhibition takes place next January from 6th-9th. Find more information about the event at btyoungscientist.com or @BTYSTE

Festival Volunteers Required!

volunteer picDo you have a passion for Science, Engineering, Technology or Maths? Are you looking for hands-on ways to gain some really useful work experience in event management or education outreach?

We are looking for volunteers to join the Midlands Science Festival Team for a variety of tasks over the coming weeks and for Science Week itself which takes place from November 8th – 15th. Roles will include facilitating public event programmes, helping out at the festival, engaging people with Science Week and creating awareness and a good overall feeling about science.

We are encouraging students, scientists, engineers, parents, community workers and leaders to contact us if this sounds like something you might enjoy. So, if you are over 18 years old, hard-working and want the chance to meet like-minded people and attend fantastic events for free, we want to hear from you!

Don’t miss an opportunity to share your excitement for this fascinating subject and remember, you don’t have to be a scientist to volunteer with us. For information please contact Jackie Gorman on 05793 23902 or by email: jgorman@atlanticcorridor.ie

The Importance of Minding your Mind..

Mental Health Week 2015 ran nationally and internationally from the 5th – 11th of October with World Mental Health Day taking place on the 10th October.

Mental Health Associations, private groups and individuals hosted a range of activities in communities all over Ireland during this time ranging from things like ‘laughter yoga’ and sound meditation to ecotherapy walks and ‘Stop Worrying’ workshops.

Although there have been positive developments in service provision in many countries, many people with these types of health difficulties can still face great difficulty in accessing the service they require.

Another key issue surrounding mental health which very sadly still remains is stigma, which can then lead to isolation.

Mental health is not just the absence of mental illness. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. (WHO, 2007)

Mental Health is about :
•How we feel about ourselves
•How we feel about others
•How we are able to meet the demands of life.

Each and everyone of us has a role to play in mental health promotion because in one way or another it is relevant to all of us and mental well-being are basically issues of everyday life.

We will be continuing this theme during the Midlands Science Festival are delighted that Operation Transformation’s clinical psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy will be speaking in schools and at public events for this year’s Midlands Science Festival.

Check events page for more details..

10th anniversary of world’s largest Maths festival

More than 250,000 students and adults will have taken part in at least one Maths Week event before it ends on October 18th..

Maths Week is an all-Ireland effort to raise interest in mathematics and show people, that the subject isn’t as difficult as it sometimes seems.

Maths-related events will take place across the country this week for the 10th anniversary of this festival of maths, involving all the academic institutes and many other companies and partners.

Keep an eye on the events page for some our own exciting maths related news and events during Science Week!

Do you need to Learn more about Science?

scoil mhuire ipads project2A major study published last week shows people in Ireland are generally supportive of State investment in science and believe it is important for our economic development.

The study also shows too many people feel uninformed about major science issues such as climate and energy. They also believe scientists do not listen to ordinary people.

The Science in Ireland Barometer sampled the views of more than than 1,000 people around the State and was released by Minister of State for Research and Innovation Damien English to mark the launch of Science Week 2015, which gets under way in November offering more than 800 events.

Between 83 and 88 per cent of people believe science education is important, that it will improve Ireland and that it could solve major societal challenges.

Nine out of 10 people said science was important for people’s future and almost as many said it would bring economic growth and support jobs.

However, about seven in 10 people said science was too specialised for them, that there was too much conflicting information, and that scientists didn’t listen to ordinary people.

Source: The Irish Times

Don’t miss the chance to learn more about science often is some of the most unexpected locations this year at the Midlands Science Festival!