School Outreach 2022

Midlands Science is currently taking expresssions of interest from schools in the midlands, both primary and secondary for its free school outreach programme. The programme runs all year around and explores everything from astronomy to zoology with a group of dedicated outreach professionals from the science outreach community in Ireland. The programme has been running for a number of years now and is extremely popular and is free to schools in the region.  All schools have to do to be considered for a free workshop is to the complete the Google form on the Midlands Science website and a member of the team will follow up with you directly. The outreach is limited and schools must complete the application form to be considered. For primary schools, activities exploring everything from the engineering of marble runs to the science of chocolate are popular. Whilst activities for secondary schools are more focussed on college and career choices and are delivered with a group of STEM role models from a variety of backgrounds. These provide a vital real world link between education and employment in the region.

Children are naturally interested in exploring and experimenting with the world around them right from the start, even as babies. We are all natural born scientists as we find our way in the world – walking, talking, tasting things, these are all experiments driven by curiosity. Research suggests that by  the age of 10, most children have developed either a positive or negative attitude towards science that will remain with them. So it’s really important that we engage with people of all ages, but particularly in primary school during this key developmental phase. By doing so, we can help form a positive attitude towards science, that will benefit children and stay with them into the future.  It’s not just about science itself. Science education activities provide children with opportunities to develop and practice many different skills. This includes skills us such as communication, collaboration, working together and diligence. Science also promotes problem solving and helps to expand our vocabulary and can be linked to other learning that happens in school such as literacy, numeracy and creative activities.

Exploring science at any age is interesting and exciting but exploring it at a young age can be a vital support to helping young people make informed choices about education and life skills.  Schools who are interested in the Midlands Science Outreach Programme 2022, are strongly encouraged to apply by December 10th.

Science Week 2021 Success!

Midlands Science was delighted to recently present a full week of free interactive science and exploration as part of national Science Week. With plenty of virtual events ranging from entertaining animal workshops with Dublin Zoo and the National Reptile Zoo to informative public talks on subjects such as ‘Joint Health’ and the ‘Science of Chocolate.’ It was therefore no surprise that thousands of people attended this year. Most events were all held on a digital platform this year due to the ongoing pandemic, but the positive part of that was that more people from all over Ireland and not just the Midlands, were able to access activities than ever before.

Jackie Gorman, Director of the Midlands Science Festival commented,

‘I’m delighted at the success of our ninth Midlands Science Festival, which as promised was event bigger and better than the one we ran last year during Covid19 times. It was wonderful to see so many schools registering for workshops which all pupils could access, as previously these events may only been available for a few classes. Organising such a largescale event online is certainly a challenge, but one we have really enjoyed and I wish to thank Science Foundation Ireland, all of our partners, speakers, performers and sponsors once again for making this all possible.’

It was great to see audience of all ages, ranging from school pupils and teenagers to highly respected science experts, communicators participating this year. The festival is a fantastic way to really capture the imagination and show people that science can be fun. A large number of Midlands students also had the opportunity to avail of some high-level careers advice from companies such as 3M, Irish Manufacturing Research, Cpl Recruitment, Accenture, IPCC, The Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland and many others this Science Week.

Royal Society of Chemistry Education Coordinator, Ireland Dr John O Donoghue, spoke about the online event exploring ‘Sugar and spice and everything science – the Science of chocolate’ where scientists Christine Campbell and Craig Slattery explored everything from why we like the taste of some chocolates more than others to creating the perfect chocolate sauce. This event which was a huge hit with schools and families alike during Science Week.

Dr John O Donoghue said,

“It’s fantastic to see more chemistry during science week, especially something so accessible to lots of different audiences like the Science of Chocolate. The video is very professional and engaging, we’d love to see more initiatives like this in the future!

Midlands Science was also delighted to partner with Bord na Móna for this year’s festival in providing a guided walk and talk at Lough Boora Discovery Park in Co. Offaly. At this event, Bord na Móna safely hosted a number of young pupils from Kilcormac and provided an overview of the ecological, environmental and cultural value of raised bogs while also focusing on the biodiversity features of interest available at the Lough Bora Discovery Park.

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘We have been overwhelmed by the level of goodwill from local media, our providers and many other organisations and individuals throughout the region. The large public turnout shows the appetite for this type of online event and after another successful year, we can hopefully look forward to bringing the Midlands Science Festival back to this region again.’

The virtual Discovery Day which was supported by Integra LifeSciences drew an audience of thousands of young people nationwide and included the Exploration Dome, the Reptile Zoo, Anyone 4 Science, Dale Treadwell’s Dinosaur Show, Anyone4Science and more. People of all ages had the opportunity to explore the night’s sky and learn about the science is Superheroes as well as meeting some very interesting reptiles and dinosaurs and this was all done online. Science Week is a wonderful opportunity for young science enthusiasts and their families to see what’s new and innovative in the world of science and technology.

Sinead Harten of Boher School in Co. Offaly said,

‘We were delighted to work with Midlands Science to ensure that our pupils had the opportunity to avail of events for Science Week and this has been a real treat for them after this past year and a half. It is extremely important that schools provide as many young people as possible with inspiring experiences of science and to encourage them to consider science as a subject choice when they are older. The workshops that are run by Midlands Science extend our pupils’ understanding of day to day science but also provide an opportunity for creativity and learning which is what science should be all about, especially for younger children.’

 

 

 

Inspirational Careers Advice for Science Week

The Midlands Science Festival has been hosted a large number of science and technology career talks throughout the week in partnership with a number of companies such as Accenture, Arup, Energia, IMR and 3M with topics ranging environmental science to science jobs of the future, toxicology and climate change.

We would like to thank all of the  speakers who came to the region (virtually this year) to deliver these high value presentations to students. It is fantastic to see how science can be brought to life when someone new and inspiring comes into the classroom and tells a science story from a different perspective.

We were delighted to see hands up after every talk and lots of questions. Thanks again to all who participated and to the regional schools for hosting.
#believinscience

Celebrating the Diversity of Science

We were delighted to receive so many of your photos during Science Week. They really showcased just how wide and varied science actually is and it is wonderful to see that despite most of this year’s events remaining online, students from all over the Midlands and beyond still got to celebrate and explore science in a myriad of ways! We still have more to come with experiments from Anyone4Science, Career talks, Dinosaur science, Marine life exploration and lots more this Science Week!

One teacher commented,

‘ Science is a very important subject in our school and we are always looking for fun and interactive ways to bring science to life for the pupils here. Through working with Midlands Science to host these workshops in school, we hope to foster an interest in science and technology at an early age so that when it comes to picking subjects in the later years, the children will know that science is multi-faceted and such a big part of daily life. We would like to thank Midlands Science for continuing to provide plenty of fun activities online during these challenging Covid19 times and we look forward to more science fun in the future.’

 

 

Taking Science Outside with Bord na Móna

Midlands Science was delighted to partner with Bord na Móna for this year’s annual Midlands Science Festival in providing a guided walk and talk at Lough Boora Discovery Park in Co. Offaly.

At this event, Bord na Móna safely hosted a number of young pupils from Kilcormac and provided an overview of the ecological, environmental and cultural value of raised bogs while also focusing on the biodiversity features of interest available at the Lough Bora Discovery Park. This event was part of national Science Week, supported by Science Foundation Ireland and was a great opportunity to host an in-person event due to the fact that it could be held outside in nature.

Nature is all around us and it is packed with possibilities for children to investigate and explore. Children need time to discover the outdoors and our outdoor spaces have become more important than ever over the past eighteen months as our hunger for solace and a connection with nature has dramatically increased.

Pat Sammon, External Affairs Manager, Bord na Móna said,

‘It was wonderful to play a part in this year’s Science Week in the Midlands and to see young people out enjoying the fantastic amenities and breathtaking landscapes of Lough Boora. Bord na Móna is committed to promoting awareness and education on biodiversity in schools and in communities and to protecting and preserving our heritage and environment for future generations to enjoy. We are really happy to support events which help to promote the importance of science education to our local young people and we hope that it has inspired some of them to think about science in a different way when it comes to making future subject choices at secondary level.’

Jackie Gorman, Director of the Midlands Science Festival said,

‘The Midlands Science Festival is all about taking science out of the lab and into places like libraries, theatres and outdoors in order to provide diverse ways for people of all ages to explore the world around them and to learn something new. Most of our festival has been run online this year due to the ongoing pandemic, so we were delighted to team up with Bord na Móna in order to provide this fun, learning event in the great outdoors for the students of Kilcormac National School.’

There is a wide a variety of things to see and do at Lough Boora Discovery Park and it is such a family friendly environment with a host of free activities for all ages. If you haven’t already visited, it is definitely a place to add to your list for any time of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Conversation with Dr. Máiréad Breathnach of Intel…’I simply followed the subjects I liked most…’

we have been busy catching up with lots of people who work in STEM roles in advance of Science Week 2021.

Dr. Máiréad Breathnach is from Laois originally and works at Intel’s Kildare campus as an Area Co-Ordinator. Máiréad has a PhD and BSc in Applied Physics from the University of Limerick and completed her secondary school studies at the former Brigidine Secondary School at Mountrath.

 

What inspired you to pursue a role in technology?

I don’t recall consciously pursuing a role in technology. There was no one moment of inspiration, and with experience I’ve learned that that’s ok. I simply followed the subjects I liked most and was best at, maths and physics, and my technological career evolved organically from there. In primary school maths was my favourite subject, at junior cert I loved maths and science and for leaving cert I studied chemistry and physics. For CAO applications I wasn’t 100% sure exactly what my career would be, but I knew it would involve science, so I studied Applied Physics at the University of Limerick. The summer I finished my degree there were several options to move into industry, but I didn’t feel I was quite finished with academia, so I successfully applied for the Irish Research Council for Science Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) scholarship and completed a PhD which crossed the disciplines of physics, electrochemistry, microscopy, and materials science. During my postgraduate research I became increasingly interested in technology transfer and as my PhD concluded I was excited to step into industry.  My first industrial role was as a technology development scientist at TFI (Technology from Ideas) an Irish seed investment and commercialisation company that specialises in conducting proof of concept development on early stage, technology-based ideas submitted by academic researchers. This was an exciting role, involving a mixture of market focussed research, lab-based research and development, workshop-based prototyping, intellectual property assessment and protection, obtainment of funding grants, and commercialisation of early-stage technologies. After 3 years in TFI I moved to Intel as I was eager for a new challenge in a larger multinational organization.

What is your role at Intel Ireland and what are some of the key skills required for your job?

At Intel, I work in the Sort Department, which is the wafer testing division of Intel’s Ireland operations. My current title is Sort Area Co-ordinator (AC). This is a project manager role and as AC I am responsible for planning, organizing, and directing the completion of the Sort component of the Intel 4 programme at Intel Ireland. That is, equipping the existing Sort manufacturing facility with the necessary tester fleet to meet the Intel 4 process node capacity requirements, with minimal disruption to existing production.

Key skills are team leadership, communication, networking, self-direction and motivation, sound planning and organization. The rapid pace of change in the semiconductor industry requires a tolerance to ambiguity and the ability to persist through uncertainties and as a result innovate change and continuous improvement. Success in this role requires technical acumen to solve complex technical issues specifically in terms of Intel’s manufacturing operations and tool demolition, install and qualification processes. Financial savviness and a strong understanding of the global supply chain and capacity planning systems are also core skills in the role.

What was your route into this role?

In my almost ten years with Intel, I’ve had the opportunity to work in varied roles, principally within the Sort department. When I joined Intel in 2011, I worked as a parametric test engineer, progressing to module team lead for the group within 12 months. This role enabled professional leadership development as I was accountable for the module’s performance in terms of safety, quality, and output. I was responsible for management of new product and test programme introductions, change control, product and equipment failure debug, team workload prioritization and planning, team skill development, and customer communications and relations.

In 2013, I undertook a temporary assignment as a product quality and reliability engineer with the Corporate Quality Network to develop the Intel® Quark™ processor, the first product designed in Ireland. I gained insight into how a product develops from initial concept and design to the manufacturing of the first microprocessors.

Upon my return to the parametric test module, I spent four months in Portland, Oregon as a seed engineer as part of the technology transfer for the next process node start up in Ireland. Much of this role was learning and documenting the new test process to train my colleagues back home on the technical changes and challenges that we needed to master to ensure our process start-up was a success in Ireland.

Following the start-up, I moved into an integration role, where I worked closely with process engineers, test engineers, and product engineers to maintain and develop quality and reliability standards for the end of line wafer testing processes. This involved continuous risk assessment, identification of potential gaps in our systems, and implementation of robust improvements. In parallel to this role, I took ownership for the Sort department budget forecasting and cost management, and I certified and worked as an IATF 16949 and ISO 9001 internal auditor for Intel’s internal audit programme.

During my time as a parametric test engineer, I lead projects to resolve global parametric testing capacity issues, drove three process node transfers for the parametric test module and twice owned the relocation of the existing tester fleet in addition to the doubling of the tester fleet. This technical experience in addition to my financial role as cost owner were key factors in my progression to my current AC role.

During my career, I’ve spent a maximum of 1 to 3 years in any one role. Once I feel I’ve become an expert in my current role, that’s when I seek out a new role with a new challenge.

 

Why is it important for Intel to get involved in school STEM outreach?

The challenges of tomorrow will be solved by the young people of today and a solid foundation in STEM is a key component to their success. The misconception that STEM subjects are too difficult is a key challenge faced by educators. I observed this in 5th year as my higher-level leaving cert maths class diminished in numbers within the first two weeks of the term, mainly due to an alarming amount of unsubstantiated fear mongering. Challenging these misconceptions is key and an effective method to do so is to nurture an interest and confidence in STEM from a young age. Intel provides STEM-centred tools and resources to educators to foster the next generation of innovators and problem solvers. Each year I participate as a judge in the Intel Mini Scientist. ‘Learning through play’ is widely regarded as central to early years education and the Intel Mini Scientist is an excellent opportunity for primary school students to embrace that concept by exploring science and technology through project-based learning and exhibitions. It’s thrilling to see the children’s excitement and passion, their skills for data collection and analysis and the confidence they display to present their reports. It is also important for the students to see a female judge. They have the opportunity (and they do use it!) to ask me anything about my job.

 

Are there are any specific challenges for women in science and tech now?

The most obvious is the disparity between males and females in STEM, resulting in a lack of female role models to entice more females into STEM, and for those already working in STEM there is low or no visibility to senior female colleagues to encourage more females to apply for senior roles. The message needs to change from highlighting the historical challenges faced by women in STEM to showcasing successful women past and present working in STEM. And while it’s great to showcase women at the top levels of industry such as Sheryl Sandberg, not everyone aspires to be at that level. To attract and retain females in STEM relatable women at all levels need to be celebrated and visible.

I heard a phrase recently ‘if you see it you can be it’.

At Intel, females are the minority in many business groups. The ‘Press for Progress’ group mentoring programme, in which I am a mentor, was established to provide an avenue where females can share their experiences, learn from each other and gain access to a support network. The mentoring sessions facilitate sharing of commons issues (communicating in ways which can undermine their authority, lacking confidence to speak up in a male dominated environment, feeling isolated, unheard, or overlooked, and lacking confidence to voice their ambitions or apply for new roles) and specific techniques, and examples of how to overcome such challenges. I would also advice that females seek out a sponsor (male or female) who is aware of their achievements, abilities, and ambition. A mentor can guide you, but a sponsor can promote your inclusion.

Parents and educators also have a responsibility to ensure visibility to female STEM role models. I had fantastic female role models in secondary school with excellent female teachers for maths, science and leaving cert physics. And as a parent I am conscious of anything my daughter watches. Recently I found myself querying why there is only one female pup in Paw Patrol?! My husband and I tend to guide her towards Ada Twist Scientist and Ridley Jones who have great female role models whilst Wild Kratts has good gender balance. Wonderous Women Who Changed the World and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls are top of our reading list, and Lego’s Women of Nasa is a popular set in our house.

 

 

Do you think there are any really exciting tech jobs we can hope to see in the next 10 years?

Absolutely. I read recently that an estimated 65-percent of children in the next generation will have jobs that are not even created yet! The current global challenges of climate change and COVID 19 will be integral modulators in the science and technology of the next decade. To combat climate change engineering roles will increase in green energy, conservation, and sustainability, specifically in electric battery development, carbon capture, usage and storage, and hydrogen usage. The current pandemic is certain to drive an increase in focus and funding in the areas of epidemiology and vaccine research. With nine of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical firms currently based in Ireland I would expect to see an increase nationally in science and engineering roles in the research, development, and manufacture of vaccines.

In the software and IT sector new specialisms will emerge; cryptocurrencies driving the need for digital currency advisors, digital locksmiths playing an important role as the Internet of things and smarter homes become the norm, and commercial drone operators will be key to ensuring our Friday night takeaway arrives on time! Engineering and design roles in cloud computing, gaming, robotics, data analytics, artificial intelligence and information security will continue to expand.

New careers in biomedical science and food engineering will be very exciting. Who knows, someone reading this may yet be an organ harvester or 3D food print engineer of the future!

What would you advise a second level student considering a role in science or tech in the future?

Go for it! Remember it’s not necessary to have an exact dream job in mind, a strong sense of what interests you and a general plan is a good starting point. Your plans will most likely change several times as you learn, your interests evolve, and the world faces new challenges. Regardless of whether you apply for a narrow discipline straight out of leaving cert or choose a more general science or engineering qualification, the core skills will be similar. It will never be an issue to change your mind and the time you’ve spent is never wasted as you’ll have learned along the way. Lateral moves happen right through education and careers. The key thing is to back yourself, put down your first choice regardless of whether you think you’ll get it or not. The worst that can happen is you get another choice from your list, which in any case will most likely bring you to the same career path. Technology and science transform at a rapid pace, as do the plethora of careers to choose from. Yours might not exist today! Be fearless. There’s a quote from Arianna Huffington about how fearless is like a muscle and the more you exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let fear run your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something for Everyone this Science Week!

In addition to the many events being run in schools on a digital platform for this year’s Science Week which is run nationally by Science Foundation Ireland, we are also providing a vast number of online activities and experiences for the public to book and view virtually either in school or at home here in the Midlands region.

‘Sea and Sky’ is a virtual event which will see Simon Berrow of Irish Whale & Dolphin Group & Brian McCafferty of Birdwatch Ireland discussing biodiversity in Ireland, the science of conservation and what we can all learn from the world around it and how to care for it. You can also join flooding expert Dr Rolf Hut of Delft University of Technology to discuss the history and science of flooding and what we can do to manage flooding in a responsible way. This discussion, High Water – the Science of Flooding, is part of a series of events for Science Week with guest festival curator Dr Barry Fitzgerald of TU Eindhoven.

Don’t forget we also have our Science Week Book Club running this year as part of the festival and if you want a scientist to join your book club meeting for a discussion on the issues raised, please let us know and we will try to arrange that. Keep an eye on our website and social media for associated competitions for book clubs.

Jackie Gorman, Midlands Science CEO said,

‘There will be an exciting range of new events online this year with a promise of something for all age groups 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 workshops which will hopefully help young people around the Midlands develop an interest in STEM subjects beyond the confines of the curriculum and increase their awareness of potential careers in those areas.’

Visit the magical, scientific world of WandaVision with Superhero Scientist Barry Fitzgerald! In early 2020, the Disney+ series WandaVision arrived to much-deserved adulation. Wanda’s world is built on puzzlement and magic and there’s a lot of science to explore here. Check out www.midlandsscience.ie for more details and booking information and join us to celebrate science this November across the Midlands.

 

 

 

 

Reporting from the Reptile Zoo!

Excitement is building for some of our much-loved events which will be making a return online this year. The National Reptile Zoo provide wonderful events for the younger pupils to learn about  lizards, tortoise, turtles, crocodiles, alligators, spiders, scorpions, frogs and more. This is definitely an event where science, education and entertainment all meet in the middle and proves to be an enjoyable learning experience for everyone, regardless of age.

Rossa Bracken from Laois and Abbie Mulligan from Longford were the winners of our mini-reporter competition in October. Rossa and Abbie had the opportunity to visit the National Reptile Zoo in advance of the annual Midlands Science Festival and ask lots of questions about some of their favourite animals.

Photo: Rossa, Abbie, Sarah from National Reptile Zoo and Pauline Nally from Midlands Science.

Promoting Safety Online for Science Week with Google and Barnardos

Midlands Science is delighted to team up with Google and its online safety partner, Barnardos, the children’s charity, to deliver online safety workshops for students and a webinar for parents during Science Week 2021. These virtual workshops are based on current research and best practice to promote online safety for children. As young people are living in an increasingly digital world, it is so vital that they know what it safe and what is not. As they rely more and more on their screens for team interaction in school and for homework and connection, they also need to be able to identify misinformation and to know how to make the right decisions when engaging with social media content.

Ryan Meade, Public Policy & Government Relations Manager, Google Ireland said,

“Google is delighted to support the Midlands Science Festival 2021.  Barnardos, our Google.org online safety partner, will be delivering online safety workshops to schools during the festival. By supporting the Barnardos Online Safety Programme and creating a free multifaceted programme designed to teach younger children (age 7-11 year olds) about online safety, we want to help make the internet a safer place for young people in Ireland. We will also be hosting an online safety webinar for parents and we believe that open communication between children and adults and regular conversations about a child’s online use are key to helping children stay safe online. The objective of this online webinar is to leave parents feeling empowered with practical tips that will help their family stay safer and be happier on the internet.”

These workshops provide the perfect opportunity to generate the conversations that need to take place to support children in their online lives. Topics covered include: How to talk to your child about online safety, Parental controls, Helpful websites, Cyberbullying and how to help your child, How to encourage digital wellbeing, Sexting and Strategies gaming and screen time.

Jackie Gorman, Midlands Science CEO commented,

“We know that particularly over the course of the last eighteen months that an increasing number of young people are regularly online and it has become a more important part of their life than ever before. Unfortunately, this can sometimes mean that young people are seeing misleading content every day and many have regular friend requests from people that they don’t know. While the majority of young people understand that they have a responsibility to be mindful of their actions when online and many also know to report potentially harmful or misleading content, we all have a part to play in creating a better online world. Midlands Science is delighted to partner with Google and Barnardos for this year’s Midlands Science Festival to provide these workshops which will be packed full of tips on digital safety, screen time and lots more.”

 

This event is brought to you by the Barnardos Online Safety Programme as part of the Midlands Science Festival, in conjunction with Google and is part of national Science Week, supported by Science Foundation Ireland.

 

Barnardos Online Safety workshops can be booked by completing the online booking form on their website www.barnardos.ie/osp or by emailing onlinesafety@barnardos.ie.

 

 

I Like to Move It!

‘I Like to Move it’ is a unique online event exploring the science of joint health with Angela Camon, advanced rheumatology nurse practitioner and Dr Craig Slattery of UCD.

This event will explore everything from the science of arthritis to the science of pain management and is part of national Science Week, supported by Science Foundation Ireland.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman commented,

‘According to statistics published by Arthritis Ireland, one million people in Ireland, including many children, are living with arthritis. There is therefore a very strong chance that we all personally know other people who are suffering with this condition. Unfortunately, there is so much more to arthritis than just the actual joint pain itself. People of all ages are also struggling with managing the associated fatigue, stiffness, inflammation and the effects that joint pain can have on their mental health.’

Society is also undoubtedly affected by arthritis, which is often classed as an invisible disease and is the cause of many people being unable to attend work due to ongoing pain issues. However, with the right quality of care, advice, understanding and in some cases, lifestyle changes, many people are more in control of the effects of arthritis and can still lead full lives.

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘Everyday tasks can become frustratingly difficult for people with arthritis. We hope that this event, which will explore ways to better manage your joint health will help people who are living with pain and we look forward to hearing from advanced rheumatology nurse practitioner, Angela Camon, on how people can take an active role in their pain management for a better day to day quality of life.’