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…

@curiouskim1

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.

 

He said, she said….

 

FionnualaLast year we took note of some of the comments made by teachers who were fortunate to host a Science Week event in the Midlands as part of the Midlands Science Festival 2013. We hope teachers (and parents!) will be just as happy this year ….

‘A key goal of Science Week is to strengthen the attractiveness of science education through the use of exciting and innovative tools and ideas. Clearly, it is much easier to ignite school children’s interest in learning about science and nature when it is carried out in a more fun and engaging way. Therefore, we were delighted to be hosting the Reptile Village Zoo and its mobile demonstration team during the Midlands Science Festival.’

‘This is a real and tangible example of how we can teach children about the wonders of the world in a simple and hands-on way. It will hopefully instill in the young students a love of learning, particularly about science and the world around them.’

‘Children have a natural tendency towards exploration and discovery and now more than ever, it is so important to encourage them to be curious about nature and the world and to educate them on the importance of science in their everyday lives.’

‘Children learn best through doing and these types of workshops encourage hands-on participation and bring science to life, showing students just how much fun it can be. It will also hopefully encourage their curiousity about science and nature even more so going forward.’

 

Not long to go now…Find out just how much the ‘Power of Science’ is all around!

Stargazing on the Bog is now fully booked!

Bord na Móna recently launched a brand new visitor’s centre at Lough Boora Discovery Park and we are really excited to announce that we will be hosting a unique event at Lough Boora during the Midlands Science Festival this year.

Nestled in the heart of Ireland, Lough Boora Discovery Park extends to over 2000 hectares and has a network of off-road walking and cycle routes within a perimeter of approximately 20 kilometres. We are really big fans of Lough Boora Discovery Park, particularly as it has so much to offer outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers and families looking for an affordable and relaxing day out together.

On Saturday November 15th at 8pm we will be inviting people of all ages to come and join us at the Discovery Park for a unique lesson in Astronomy and this will be followed by a guided astronomy introduction (weather permitting), which will be provided outside in darkness by the Midlands Astronomy Club.

Seanie Morris of the Midlands Astronomy Club said,

‘We are delighted to be involved in this year’s Midlands Science Festival. Our hope is to change the way people think about astronomy, encourage participation from people of all ages from complete beginners to stargazing enthusiasts. We want to prove that you don’t have to be an astronomy expert to appreciate how much fun it can actually be.’

Tom Egan of Bord na Mona also commented,

‘Bord na Mona is also delighted to be hosting the ‘Stargazing on the Bog’ event this year as part of the Midlands Science Festival.  You’ll find any number of fun-packed, innovative and stimulating events happening all over the Midlands during Science Week – from family-friendly workshops and exhibitions, career advisory sessions and expert discussions to special screenings of science-related movies for film fanatics. Lough Boora host many events throughout the year but this really is something very different and we are really looking forward to seeing some stargazers out here on the night.’

Take your curiosities to a new level and don’t miss out an opportunity to discover and celebrate science this November across the Midlands. Check out www.midlandsscience.ie for all FREE events and booking details.

Letting Science Loose in Laois!

Ploughing1We are really looking forward to our line-up in Laois this year! The festival will take science out of the lab and into our libraries and primary school classrooms, giving people a variety of fun ways to explore and open up a multitude of ideas for a future career in science.

Catherine Casey, Heritage Officer with Laois County Council said, ‘Laois County Council is delighted to be associated with this year’s Midlands Science Festival. We had a little taste of what’s on offer when the ‘Junior Einsteins Science Club’ performed to packed audiences in the Laois tent at the Ploughing Championships recently. Science Week is a free, family-friendly, programme of events which allows people of all ages to discover something new, participate in a number of hands-on science and technology activities and see a whole host of live performances by science enthusiasts and communicators.’

This is the second year that a dedicated programme of free Science Week events is being rolled out in the counties of Laois, Offaly, Westmeath and Longford. It will bring together a large number of interested participants including entrepreneurs and researchers, science and technology speakers, science students and the general public from all over the Midlands.

In planning the programme, we have partnered with a number of schools and other regional organisations, such as Laois County Council, Abbeyleix Heritage House and Portlaoise Library to create opportunities which excite students about science and demonstrate how it connects to real life. It’s about creating greater interest in science education and careers which of course benefits the Midlands region.

Laois event highlights include an address by zoologist Seán Kelly of Trinity College Dublin on a new species of a colourful bird which has been discovered by a group of Irish students on the Wakatobi islands south of Sulawesi in Indonesia. We are delighted to welcome Seán to Abbeyleix Heritage House on November 10th to talk about what must be a once in a lifetime experience for any biologist– the discovery of a new species. Another public talk which will be of particular interest to students and members of the public who are interested in wildlife is ‘THE SILENCE OF THE TENRECS’, which will take place in Mountmellick Public Library on November 12th.The key speaker, Sive Finlay of Trinity College Dublin is another zoologist with a broad range of research interests in evolution, ecology, comparative biology & behavioural ecology. This public talk is a unique opportunity to learn about the science of wildlife research & conservation.

We also look forward to welcoming award-winning science writer , Mary Mulvihill of ‘Ingenious Ireland’ to Laois during the festival. Mary wants everyone to know that Ireland is not just a nation of writers – we also produced some of the world’s greatest scientists and engineers, and our ideas have helped to change the world. Mary runs popular science walking tours of Dublin, writes a science columnist for The Irish Times, and you can hear her speaking in Portlaoise Library on November 12th.

These are just some of the many locally produced and pre-booked workshops taking place but to find out how to book your free place for some of the other innovative events that will be happening in Laois and the wider region you can view a detailed listing on our Events section.

 

When it comes to science, the sky is the limit!

I had the pleasure of recently chatting to Margaret Franklin, Science writer, Vice President of the Institute of Chemistry and friend to the Midlands Science Festival….

You retired in 2009 as Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at Athlone Institute of Technology. What are you spending most of your time on now Margaret?

Since I have retired, I am devoting a good deal of my time to professional affairs. I have been a member of The Institute of Chemistry of Ireland, the professional body for chemists in this country for the past 40 years.

For many years, I was Midlands Representative for the Institute and later I was co-opted onto Council. This meant that I became a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute. I served as Registrar for four years, from 2007 to 2011. In April 2013, I was elected Vice President, a position I hold at present.

The Institute of Chemistry of Ireland is an entirely Irish Professional Body and is affiliated to EuCheMS. which is a federation of European Chemical societies. Weencourage representatives of our Young Chemists Group to become involved with the European Young Chemists’ Network, by providing them with travel bursaries to attend meetings in various European countries. We review submissions from Universities and Institutes of Technology, when they introduce new chemistry programmes, to assess the eligibility of graduates of these courses for membership of our Institute.

Apart from this, I have taken up some freelance science writing in my retirement. For over three years, I wrote a regular column for ‘The Westmeath Independent’ called ‘Topical Science’. The aim of this column was to give readers some scientific background to topical news stories, as they arose in the media. I am now a regular contributor to ‘Science Spin’ magazine. Recent articles I have had published there include one on Crystallography and another on the aftermath of Fukushima. I also provide answers to some of the questions in the ‘Ask a Scientist’ feature.

As a science writer, why do you think good science communication is so important?

I find that there is a lack of well-informed comment on scientific matters in the Irish media. In writing about scientific topics, it is important to stick to accurate scientific findings and argue from logic, rather than emotion. Sometimes journalists, perhaps in an attempt to get eye-catching headlines, are inclined to indulge in scaremongering and overplay the risks involved in certain cases, for example on environmental matters.

The problem is that not many journalists have had a scientific training, so they themselves may be unable to appreciate the issues involved. On the other hand, scientists and particularly scientific researchers, are accustomed to communicating their research finding to their peers, who understand the scientific terminology involved. The general public would not be familiar with the precise meaning of scientific terms. So, to be a good science communicator, one needs to have a thorough understanding of the science involved and also to be able to express those ideas clearly in non-scientific language.

Why are events like the Midlands Science Festival so vital for encouraging young people to consider a future in a science career?
Unfortunately, Science education education has not been given a high priority in Ireland and careers guidance teachers rarely have a scientific background. At the same time, many parents may not have had the opportunity to study science
when they were in school, so not many children are exposed to strong scientific influences and it may not occur to them to consider a career in science. So it is wonderful that the Midlands Science Festival is bringing the work of scientists to the attention of the public, to raise awareness of the importance of science in our modern society and to show that science can be fun, as well as providing a training for a successful career..

Can you tell us a bit about your work on Crystallography?
I am not an expert on Crystallography, but I have taught it, along with other topics, as part of the chemistry courses I have taught over the years. I have always been fascinated by crystals, ever since my father gave me a present of a chemistry set
when I was a child in primary school. We were not taught any science at that level when I was going to school, but I had great fun growing crystals at home.

This year, 2014, has been designated by UNESCO as The international Year of Crystallography, so I have been trying to raise awareness about it. Most people are fascinated by crystals and appreciate the beauty of large mineral crystals that are sometimes sold as ornaments. All over the world, there are exhibitions and conferences being held on crystallography.

The Institute of Chemistry of Ireland adopted Crystallography as the main them of our 2014 Congress, which was held in Limerick in September, hosted jointly by The University of Limerick and Limerick Institute of Technology.

What are some of the more exciting science jobs that you are seeing now or you see for the future?

A Scientific education and training opens many possibilities. In Ireland, The Pharmaceutical Industry is a major employer of scientists, particularly chemists, chemical engineers and graduates in Pharmaceutical Science. Within this industry, chemists may be involved in quality assurance, where analytical chemistry is used. Chemists are also involved in devising better methods for synthesising active ingredients, or in developing formulations that provide more efficient pathways for delivering the active ingredient to the patient. The medical devices sector is also a major employer of scientists in Ireland.

Analytical Chemists, Food scientists and microbiologists are needed for the food and beverages sector, which is also a major employer in Ireland. A number of scientists are employed in the Public Service. Hospitals employ laboratory technicians, the Public Analysts laboratories, the State Laboratory, the EPA & The Marine Institute employ many scientists.

It seems that the moratorium on employment is the Public Service is coming to an end, so there will be jobs available. There is also a need for well-qualified science teachers, to pass on the knowledge to the next generation of scientists. Some of our brightest and best will find exciting careers abroad, but there are also a limited number of academic teaching and research positions available in universities and institutes of technology in Ireland. Some of the research fields that are undergoing exciting developments right now include materials science, nanotechnology and photovoltaic devices to trap solar energy. SFI provides a source of funding for such research.

But science is primarily about satisfying our natural human curiosity about how the universe works. Some of our future science graduates may become involved in ‘Big Science’ projects, such as particle research in collaboration with CERN or the search for exo-planets in orbit around distant stars. When it comes to science, the sky is the limit!