Physical Activity for Life…AIT STEM Talk for Longford Students

We were delighted to welcome Mairead Cantwell, a clinical exercise physiologist to Mean Scoil Mhuire in Longford recently where she delivered an insightful and informative presentation to students as part of our STEM career talks in association with AIT.

Mairead works as  as an assistant lecturer in sport and exercise science at AIT. Clinical exercise physiology focuses on the promotion and prescription of physical activity to individuals living with different chronic conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, cancer).

Her presentation focused on the benefits of physical activity for health throughout the life, and in the context of clinical conditions. She also discussed potential routes into careers in clinical exercise physiology.

 

The younger we reach students the better!

Gas Networks Ireland celebrate Engineer’s Week.
Picture by Shane O’Neill Photography.

For our festival 2017 we have partnered with a number of extremely supportive organisations including Gas Networks Ireland to create opportunities which aim to excite students about science. Gas Networks Ireland is committed to responsible business practice, ensuring that environmental, ethical and social principles are at the core of its business decisions and are key to its business strategy. We are most grateful for the support and enthusiasm our partners and sponsors provide to enable us to spread the science message and without their help our festival would not be possible. We caught up with Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for Gas Networks Ireland, Christina van der Kamp for a chat earlier this week..

Christina, we are delighted to be partnering with Gas Networks Ireland this year to help make the Midlands Science Festival 2017 a great success. Can you tell us a little about your role in Gas Networks Ireland?

As Corporate Responsibility (CR) Manager for Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) much of my role involves working with colleagues to ensure that CR is high on the agenda right across the business. I am also responsible for all community activity for GNI. Our CR programme is wide-reaching and about so much more than simply volunteering and sponsorship! It influences many areas of our business and revolves around the five CR pillars of Community, Environment, Workplace, Marketplace and Governance.

Gas Networks Ireland holds the ‘Business Working Responsibly’ Mark for responsible and sustainable business practices. One of the first companies to be granted certification in 2013, we are still one of only 25 companies in Ireland that hold the Mark. For us, this is a clear demonstration of our commitment to CR and it’s something we’re especially proud of! Recently, we completed a three year CR strategy identifying priorities under each of the CR pillars, with the aim of further integrating CR with the strategic mission and vision of Gas Networks Ireland.

Do you have a science background?

My background is in communications, I have a degree in Media Production Management and a Masters in Science Communication. The Masters explores social issues in science and technology, and the communications and controversies surrounding them. It gave me a great grasp of the social significance of science in society and the importance of demystifying careers in science to young people.

Do Gas Networks Ireland support other STEM related educational programmes?

Education in particular has been a major focus of our community programmes to date. With Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) at the core of our business, Gas Networks Ireland delivers a programme called ‘Our Universe’ to over 5,000 primary school kids in partnership with Junior Achievement Ireland. This science education programme is delivered by volunteers from different organisations across the country annually. The purpose of the programme is to influence and encourage students to continue with science in secondary school and beyond. We also hold events on Engineers Week and exhibited at the iWish conference this year.

Recent data shows that Ireland continues to experience a skills shortage in the STEM sector. Why is it important for companies like Gas Networks Ireland to support events like the Midlands Science Festival and what do you think we can do to keep dispelling the myth that science is difficult?

As an engineering organisation, it’s hugely important that we support events like the Midlands Science Festival. We relish our role of encouraging the workforce of tomorrow! Events like the Midlands Science Festival and programmes like Our Universe introduce science in an informative yet appealing way and play an important part in having a positive influence on students’ perception of science. The younger we reach students the better!

New Board Member for Midlands Science

Midlands Science is pleased to announce the appointment of the Assistant Secretary General of the Irish Association of Community & Comprehensive Schools, Mr. John Irwin, to its Board of Directors.
Martin Cronin, Chairperson of Midlands Science commented,
‘John joins a voluntary Board dedicated to ensuring that the importance of science education and careers continues to be highlighted here in the Midlands. John is a very valuable addition to our Board and I look forward to working with him as we continue our efforts to connect to more students, teachers and parents. He brings a wealth of academic and corporate expertise and experience in education promotion to help Midlands Science activities and contribute to setting our vision for the future.’
John is an experienced secondary school teacher and former school principal and in his current role as Assistant Secretary General of the Irish Association of Community & Comprehensive Schools and in this role, he is responsible for the development and management of a network of large community schools across the country. He is particularly interested in the linkages between education, employment and local development and in his years as a teacher and school principal he was an early adopter and proponent of new and engaging ways to interest students in STEM issues.
John Irwin commented,
‘I am honoured to join the Board of Midlands Science and look forward to collaborating with fellow members on new concepts and ventures to provide even more opportunities, activities and resources for our students here in this region. Together, we will continue our efforts to build the next generation of local scientists and engineers in the most innovative and dynamic ways possible.’
Midlands Science has recently launched its new website which will provide details of upcoming science and technology education and promotional events taking place across the region. The website can be accessed at www.midlandsscience.ie

Promoting STEM Education with ESB

We are delighted and proud to be working with leading utility company, ESB this year to help spread messages about the importance of STEM education and we caught up with CSR Coordinator, Anne Cooney to find out more about the work that EB is doing in this area.

In what kinds of ways do ESB help develop future skills in science, technology, engineering?

From our perspective, as a leading Irish employer, it makes sense for us to support our young people in developing these core skills.  After all, they are our workforce of the future.

We, in common with many other Irish companies, need access to staff with strong science, technology, maths and literacy skills and all of these are grounded in getting our young children off to the best educational start possible.  ESB supports a wide range of initiatives across the country working to raise awareness and encourage and influence participation in STEM.  Initiatives include Dublin Science Gallery, I Wish, TechSpace, and Midlands Science.  More information can be found at https://esb.ie/acting-responsibly/community-stem-and-the-arts/promoting-innovation-through-stem.

 

Do you work with educationally disadvantaged communities and if so what types of projects do you feel work well?

ESB’s Energy for Generations Fund sees over €2m per year disbursed across a range of community and issues-based initiatives. Each year the Fund awards €1m in direct funding through a quarterly fund to charities working in the areas of suicide prevention, homelessness and education access and support.

ESB has been supporting initiatives in the areas of suicide prevention and homelessness since 2005 and we introduced a new focus on education in 2014, which recognises the need for educational supports at all levels to ensure that Ireland has the skills it needs to compete effectively in the future.  We support organisations working in the area of education in very practical and effective ways to support our young people in developing core skills.  Without a strong foundation in the basics, children will find their path through education, to whatever level they aspire, much more of a struggle.

ESB is also conscious that our staff and our company have been the beneficiaries of historically high standards of educational delivery.  We have a duty to acknowledge and repay that investment made in us and we are pleased to be the national partner with An Cosán Virtual Community College.  There are many barriers for people across Ireland in accessing further and higher education and An Cosán VCC is an innovative new programme which has the power to break down these barriers and offers a unique opportunity for anyone wishing to develop their skills and achieve their full potential.

How do you think we can do more to encourage young children to take an interest in science and technology? Are there any recommended ways for teachers to inform pupils about the electricity distribution network in a fun and exciting way?

We need to introduce young children to STEM at an early age – and show that it is fun!  I am a firm believer that the earlier we start with educating our children, parents and teachers the better the future for all of us.  We need to make STEM more appealing and demonstrate its relevance by showing how it is key to solving different challenges.  And we need to show that it’s just as cool for girls to enjoy maths as it is for boys.

Electricity is so much part of daily life that we often take it for granted. It is a powerful and versatile energy but can be dangerous if not used properly.  So it is essential to be aware of the potential dangers and make safety a priority for everyone.  To raise awareness and educate school going children about electricity, ESB Networks has developed Junior and Senior Lesson Plans specifically designed to work with the electricity strands of the Science Curriculum.  These lesson plans and other fun and educational resources can be accessed here.

Are there enough young people studying engineering at third level and are there currently enough graduates in STEM fields?

There is a worldwide skills shortage in STEM – and Ireland is not immune.  There are not enough young people studying engineering at third level, and even fewer females.  Many believe that if we can fix the gender gap, we can alleviate the skills shortage. Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that less than 25 per cent of the approximate 120,000 people working in STEM related jobs are female. As such, there is a significant focus now is on encouraging more females to consider and explore the world of STEM subjects. – See more at: https://esb.ie/blog/esb-in-the-community/esb-in-the-community/2017/02/06/i-wish-for-stem-success#sthash.7b1xxa18.dpuf

 


Atlantic Corridor Case Study Features in Government Diaspora Toolkit

mary GThis week, Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Mr. Jimmy Deenihan T.D. launched a new Local Diaspora Toolkit or practical guide for Local Authorities and local and community groups to assist in the development of strategies for local diaspora engagement.

Commissioned by Minister Deenihan and developed by Professor Liam Kennedy and Dr. Madeleine Lyes of the UCD Clinton Institute, the Toolkit seeks to develop the potential for communities and counties in Ireland to reach out to their own local diasporas.
It will facilitate the building of new relationships with the global Irish to benefit local and regional development and it profiles some of the best and most successful initiatives already underway throughout the country.

Speaking about the launch of this toolkit, CEO of Atlantic Corridor, Jackie Gorman said,

‘I was delighted to see Atlantic Corridor featured as a case study in the new Local Diaspora Toolkit. We are already actively engaged in forging partnerships internationally and will be increasingly focused on leveraging the growing population of expatriates to effectively promote economic development in the Midlands and indeed nationally.

Our primary emphasis here will be on the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and on the promotion of STEM skills, which can be used as an excellent economic development and marketing selling point for this region. This is a key focus for our programme area of work and we are pleased to note that plans are already afoot to bring Dr. Mary Guinan of the University of Nevada to Ireland next year promote the value of STEM education in local development.’

The full toolkit can be viewed below:

http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/News/Government_Press_Releases/Local_Diaspora_Toolkit.pdf

More Midlands Students Now Choosing Science Fields

up to date stats midlands stem educationLocal development company Atlantic Corridor is pleased to share a recent analysis of Higher Education Authority (HEA) data which indicate a noteworthy rise in the number of Midlands students entering third level courses in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM). 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.

Martin Cronin, Chairman of Atlantic Corridor welcomes the recent news,
‘These figures demonstrate that students are really listening to national messages about the importance of relevant, high-value qualifications in STEM fields. They also indicate that targeted educational initiatives like the Midlands Science Festival are starting to have real impact. With science, we really need to start influencing young people from an early age and it is critical that we continue to actively encourage the next generation by providing new and more diverse ways to learn.’

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. Atlantic Corridor recently hosted the Midlands Science Festival for the second year running during the nationwide ‘Science Week’ to promote the relevance of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in our everyday lives, with a focus on the four Midlands counties of Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath. This year’s Midland Science Festival saw over 4500 people in attendance across the region throughout the week at entertaining and educational science talks, shows workshops and demonstrations.

Upon closer examination, the aforementioned analysis reveals that the number of students now studying a STEM related course from Laois has increased by 35% while in Offaly it has risen by 53%. In Longford, there are 15% more STEM students whilst in Westmeath there has been quite a staggering increase of 60%.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, TD, commented:
‘I am delighted at the striking increase in local students seeking to pursue a scientific field. Science and related fields are crucial to building the competitive strength of the midlands and in growing our economy. I commend Atlantic Corridor’s critical work in promoting science education in our schools and higher level institutes across the midlands. The pursuit of excellence in science has particular relevance given my Government’s proposed midlands regional pilot on Action Plan for Jobs. The aim is that the pilot framework for the midlands will serve as a model for other regions and will maximise the potential for job creation in the region.’

Many of the global medical technologies and pharmaceutical companies now have a dedicated presence in Ireland 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.

Much of the good work being performed by Atlantic Corridor in STEM promotion is as a result of relevant global links and international partnerships which have been developed and fostered over the past ten years. In close cooperation with national and international partners and other State Agencies to foster the international dimension of Ireland’s economic growth, Atlantic Corridor continues to provide effective international relations for a variety of projects.

By continuing to work with key corporate and academic partners, the hope is that the number of students pursuing STEM 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.

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.

 

In Conversation with…Andreea Wade of Brandalism

Andreea WadeI recently had the pleasure of catching up with Andreea Wade, who will be speaking to a large group of secondary school ladies in Tullamore during the Midlands Science Festival…Here’s what she had to say!

When did you decide to work in a technology related field and what inspired you?
I started coding when I was 15, continued to do so until I was 19… and then decided I wanted to be a journalist. My career took a different route then but I remained interested in technology. After a few years of journalistic work – from radio to TV and magazines – I changed paths again and went into advertising, subsequently going for another degree, this time in marketing. A few years later I went on to study design and then…training.
The sum of all my passions and curiosities brought me back into technology, a field I love due to all the possibilities it presents !

Why in your view are science and technology so important in society today?
The importance of science and technology is demonstrated by the unconscious use of it in our
everyday lives. Our academic, professional and personal lives are all supported by science and
technology. We build, we communicate, we share and we learn using various technologies and the
science behind them. It has been said that we are now existing the Technology Age and entering
the Human Era. This refers not to the end of technology but to the empowerment of people to
create, to build freely and openly by making use of existing technologies. There is a movement –
organic, natural – in making both science and technology more accessible, from coding to biotech
and so on. It is important thus to acknowledge that regardless of ones path in life, you can’t escape
technology and on the contrary you can make use of it to expand your horizons, to bring added
value to whatever space your passion lies in. The field of technology is not a remote space, it is to
be found everywhere!

Why is it important for those working in science and technology to take part in such events as the
Midlands Science Festival? 
I would say it is crucial and it is so for a number of reasons. Taking part can mean different things:
you can bring in your organisation, your academic entity and share your work, you can take part as
a speaker and again, share your work, some of your knowledge and observations within your
particular field and more importantly… you can inspire. You can be a role model. I think it is the
duty of those working in technology and science to ‘’translate’’ their work to the rest of the world
and especially young people. We all need to make a conscious effort to humanise these fields,
bring them closer to our everyday realities. Connecting with others is key and I think it is also
important to acknowledge that an event like the Midlands Science Fest presents great
opportunities for creating an impact in places and on people you don’t normally have the
opportunity to. Dublin is a tech hub rich in events and happenings and it is easy to lose sight. And
so again, I think it is our duty, as people who are committed to adding value to the tech or science
communities to go the extra mile. Or, in this case, the extra 66 miles or so, haha!!

Can you tell us a bit about Women in Technology (WITs) and your involvement in this group?
Women in Technology and Science (WITS) is an active forum for women in science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM). Now in its 24th year, WITS has a proven track record in
delivering initiatives that improve the recruitment and retention of women in STEM roles. WITS is
also a strong advocate for celebrating the past and current successes of women in STEM.
Members come from a broad range of backgrounds within STEM. WITS members range in age
and experience from third level students to some of the country’s most eminent senior academics
and business people including those who have retired from the workforce. I am very proud and
honoured to be part of the WITS Executive. My involvement started last December and hopefully it
will continue for a long while. We are very open to new people joining us, men and women in
STEM and also, always open to help. We have spent 2014 working on our strategy for the next few
years and we can only hope that what we came up with will add value to the community and will
help towards achieving gender balance and eventually real diversity within STEM

Are there are any specific challenges for women in technology now?
There is only one answer to this and unfortunately it is: Yes. This is a topic I could write a book
about. Again, unfortunately. Where to start? Perhaps with the past… which is still the present. For
example, the number of female CIOs has remained static at 14% for a decade. The situation in the
EU is currently worse than developing nations and the US, where the proportion of women in
leadership roles is higher. Gartner research data showed women occupied 11.2% of technology
leadership roles in Europe, the Middle East and Africa compared with 18.1% in North America,
13.4% in Latin America and 11.5% in Asia. We need role models, we need support, we need male
allies but we also need our voices heard. What we don’t need is bullying, death threats and overall
sexism. All these things are unfortunately happening and we need to acknowledge them, face them
and address them. There is no way around this and as uncomfortable the process might be for
some, change often is uncomfortable. But change IS happening and there are a lot of initiatives
around gender balance and overall diversity so yes, things are looking up. Personally, I have no
choice but believe that and continue my work around supporting women and creating platforms for
more female voices to be heard. I am always open to conversation, always open to meeting new
people and getting involved in things that accelerate change so… if anyone has ideas or needs
support – please talk to me. All my work in this space is volunteer work and I truly appreciate
people and organisations who want to offer their help.

Counting Down to Science Week

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”362″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”left” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”10px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It may still be a few months away but we already have our thinking caps on to come up with ways to make this year’s ‘Midlands Science Festival’ even bigger and more fun and action packed than last year. There will be an exciting range of new events with a promise of something for everyone but we will also bring back some of the most popular sessions from last year with the overall aim of inspiring, educating and entertaining through science!

We are also focusing on regional activities and events which will hopefully help young people around the Midlands in particular, develop an interest in STEM subjects beyond the confines of the curriculum and increase their awareness of potential careers in those areas. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) recently launched a new three-year plan for its Smart Futures initiative which is aimed at delivering a 10% increase in uptake of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) subjects at second and third level by 2016. The overall objective is to close the skills gap which still exists in sectors such as ICT, life sciences, and engineering.

We want to be part of this collective endeavour and you can help us by taking science out of the lab and into the streets, public spaces, libraries and other fun places. You can help us celebrate science![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]