Midlands Science Provides Science Fun At Home

We are continuing to provide a range of engaging activities online via their social media channels while the schools remain closed due to the Covid19 pandemic.  Ever wondered about the science of floating, coins, fridges or sound ? Then this online content is for you, it’s about the science of all the things you can find at home.

Midlands Science CEO, Jackie Gorman said, ‘This is a very challenging time for pupils and parents as they work to navigate remote learning and being away from their peers and teachers. Several of our upcoming events have been postponed but we wanted to help those at home to continue to engage with science and learning by providing some activities online. Since we started doing this last week we have seen a really big appetite for it, especially from parents who are seeking out online resources, apps and games to keep their childrens’ minds engaged at home. People are also looking for activities to take their minds off any worries that children might have during this highly unsettling time.’

As part of the initiative to keep pupils learning in a fun and innovative way, Midlands Science provides a live science workshop with Christine Campbell from Anyone4Science on Thursdays at 11:00am on Facebook. Everything that children need to take part at home is listed on social media a few days in advance and there are no strange items or ingredients, the workshops include a variety of things to be found in the average kitchen. “Science at Home” with Dr. Dan Nickström of Maynooth University is an entertaining show that explores the science of everyday things at home and it’s put online every Tuesday at 12:00 pm. A recent episode explored the science of the fridge and let’s face it, all of those who are working from home are probably commuting a little bit more to the fridge!

Jackie Gorman continued, ‘Midlands Science is working to ensure we continue to provide resources for people to enjoy until we are at a point where we can return to bringing science to your classrooms once more.  We are also working on the circulation of regular newsletters which will list a number of carefully curated resources reflecting the curriculum and won’t create extra work for parents, who are already trying to work from home and keep children engaged with education. Huge thanks to Christine Campbell and Dr Dan Nickström for responding to the changed situation so quickly and providing such great resources. We’d like to thank our various funders for their support for this online transitioning of activities in the current situation and we wish everyone well at this time.’

Whatever the Weather!

Recently many of us found ourselves reading a lot about the many storms that we have experienced here in Ireland! In fact, it’s hard to remember back to a time when we didn’t know what the weather was potentially going to be like day by day and hour by hour!

That’s why, on March 23, we celebrate World Meteorological Day and the World Meteorological Organization, an international organisation that collects data from all over the world to help us better understand the weather and its impact on our lives. This organisation also celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2020.

Talking about the different types of weather can provide exciting starting points for learning. Exploring the concepts of weather offers many fantastic opportunities for maths and science alike. Weather is a great learning tool because it can lead to many opportunities for exploration and supports children’s understanding of the world around them.

Pictured here is the storm glass which was popular in the 1800’s as a way to predict the weather. It consisted of a liquid in a sealed tube of glass and the crystals within the tube in the liquid were believed to be linked to the weather. It was made popular by Admiral Robert Fitzroy, captain of the HMS Beagle, the ship made famous by the famous voyage made by Charles Darwin as part of his exploration of the new science of evolution. But they don’t actually work – sorry !! They remain however a curiosity and are a popular ornament and desk item that give us an insight into how people in the past tried to understand the weather.

Why not take a photograph which is related to weather or climate or draw or paint a picture that illustrate what you think of when you hear the word weather! Send us a photo of your work of art and we will feature them on the page.

#WorldMetDay

#meteorology

#climateaction

#climatechange

 

World Water Day…..

Photographed at the Midlands Science Festival recently were students from 3rd class Educate Together, Tullamore studying the bio diversity of the Grand Canal as part of Science Week. Photograph with compliments

Today is World Water Day! Water is our most precious resource – we must use it more responsibly.

World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis.
We have been so focused on climate change over this past year and water and climate change are inextricably linked.. We must balance all of society’s water needs while ensuring that people don’t get left behind. Using water more efficiently will reduce greenhouse gases and people of all ages have a role to play.

Something to do at home..

Maybe you could use World Water Day as an opportunity to do a little project about how we can all play our part. Maybe send us your drawings to gmaunsell@midlandsscience.ie or message us here with any ideas and we will mention them on our page.

Here are some resources to get you started..
http://www.worldwaterday.org/…/share/social-media-resources/

#WorldWaterDay #WaterNow #climatechange

The science of soap !!

The current situation with the Corona virus/COVID 19 has brought the importance of good hand washing into the news, so here’s the science bit.

Soap is a mixture of oil or fat with water and an alkali or basic salt, the process of making soap is called saponification [there’s a great Scrabble word for you !]. We think that the ancient Babylonians were the first people to make soap as archaeologists found their soap recipes carved into clay containers dating back to 2800 BC. Their soap recipes included animal fats, wood ash and water and their soap was probably for washing wool and cotton for weaving.  The Egyptians used a similar recipe and used soap for washing and treating skin diseases, as did the Romans.

The recipe for soap hasn’t changed much in thousands of years and soap can be made in a cold or hot process. In a cold process, room temperature lye [sodium hydroxide in water] is mixed with a vegetable or animal fat. As these ingredients react, the mixture heats up and thickens and then it’s poured into a mould and becomes solid. It’s allowed to sit for a few weeks to cure, so the excess water evaporates. The hot process is the ancient way to make soap and the ingredients are heated up so the mixture becomes liquid. This means when it’s poured into the moulds, it’s ready as soon as it’s solid.

People have known about how important hand washing is for a long time, even if they didn’t understand why it worked with preventing diseases. We didn’t always know about germs but many of the world’s religions promoted hand washing as part of their rituals. It was only in the 19th century that germs were discovered and hand washing became really important in medical procedures and it took longer to communicate this information to the public.

The importance of soap and hand washing has become big news with the Corona virus. Soap wipes out the Corona virus as soap dissolves the fat membrane surrounding it, causing the virus to fall apart like a house of cards. We need soap as well as water when we wash because the Corona virus is sticky to our skin through hydrogen bonds.  Soap contains amphiles which are similar to the lipids in the virus membrane and the soap molecules compete with the virus membrane lipids and break it up. As our hands are sometimes tough or have wrinkles, we need to really rub and work on washing our hands to make sure that every part of our skin is washed as much as possible.  Work up a good lather when washing hands as the friction helps to have a really good wash and it’s recommended to wash for at least 20 seconds, for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. Don’t forget your fingernails!! Make sure to dry your hands well afterwards as well.

The Corona virus may change hand washing habits for a long period of time for the better and help reduce other things like flu. “Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping  jalapeños and you need to change your contacts,” Dr Bonnie Henry, a Canadian health official said recently. Wash early, wash often, and wash well. We are all in this together and can protect each other and those we love by being more aware of how and when we wash our hands.  Here’s our great friend immunologist Prof Luke O’Neill of TCD demonstrating the correct way to wash your hands with RTE’s Claire Byrne. https://www.facebook.com/RTEOne/videos/646465465924683/?v=646465465924683

You can find up to date information on the situation in Ireland on  https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html

 

 

Engineer’s Week celebrations in the Midlands

Engineers Week is a week-long festival of nationwide activities celebrating the world of engineering in Ireland and events kicked off on February 29th in a number of schools, libraries and other venues around the country.  The annual event is coordinated on a national basis by Engineers Ireland’s STEPS programme – funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Education and Skills and industry leaders ARUP, ESB, Intel and TII.

Midlands Science was delighted to host a range of activities across the region this week to celebrate engineering as a profession and to demonstrate to students of all ages just how much engineering is all around us in so much of what we do in everyday life. Dr Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience is a fun, educational exploration kitted out to allow participants to explore the world and history of quantum physics.  It takes place in a specially designed caravan which rolled into Athlone as part of the annual Engineer’s Week celebrations. Funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Institute of Physics this takes a gaming approach to learning so each choice that people make determines what will happen next. We had a great day at the Aidan Heavy Library in Athlone with Dr. Mindflip and look forward to seeing this event back in the Midlands again soon.

In advance of Engineers Week, Midlands also teamed up with a range of local and national partners recently to host a special week of career workshops, hands on project work and inspirational talks from companies such as ORS, Robotics and Drives, Shay Murtagh, Waterways Ireland, Steripack, and Cpl resources. A number of transition year students from Coláiste Mhuire Mullingar participated in the week to ‘Experience Engineering’ which also focused on other various key learning aspects such as, CV preparation, interview skills and internship opportunities.

Gillian Murtagh of Shay Murtagh Precast Concrete commented,

‘Shay Murtagh was delighted to recently team up with Midlands Science to help inspire local students and enable them to make that all-important connection between in-class learning and real-world engineering careers. We are passionate about our role of encouraging the workforce of the future and while we are all seeing plenty of new job opportunities and career paths for graduates within the engineering profession, the skills shortages continue. Therefore, we must all work together to build awareness and of the industry and showcase to students the vast diversity of both science and engineering fields in a practical and easy to understand manner and events such as this provide the ideal opportunity to do so here in our own region.’

For something a little bit different this year, Midlands Science arranged for engineering films to be shown in secondary schools across the region. Students had the chance to watch inspiring productions such as ‘Dream Big’ which uses a series of surprising human stories to expose the hidden world behind the most exciting inventions and structures across the world.

The aim of each Engineers Week event is to positively showcase engineering as a rewarding and creative career choice to children in all communities. In 2019, there were over 850 activities organised in the community. Midlands Science also presented a hands-on, interactive workshop for a number of students in association with Edenderry Library in Co. Offaly. This workshop gave students from St. Mary’s Secondary School and Oaklands Community College in Edenderry a chance to explore the worlds of electricity, magnetism and semiconductor devices (the building blocks of computers) in a hands-on and relaxed environment. The workshops were delivered by Dr. Dan Nickström from Maynooth University Dept. of Experimental Physics and we are looking forward to lots more fun and engaging events with Dan in the weeks ahead.

#EngineersWeek

@engineerireland

#STEPS

 

 

 

Thoughts on World Book Day!

World Book Day in Ireland takes place today in Ireland, Thursday 5th March. Over the last 23 years, World Book Day has become firmly established as Ireland’s biggest annual event promoting the enjoyment of books and reading. I caught up with Midlands Science CEO, Jackie Gorman who is a published poet and avid reader (as can be seen from one of her many shelves in the image) to hear her views on the importance of reading and what we can do to encourage it from an early age…

Creating a love of reading for pleasure in children is so important. It encourages a love of learning, provides fuel for their imaginations and provides escapism. What are some of the other scientifically proven benefits to reading and starting at an early age? 

Many studies show that toddlers and young children who are read to every day have a larger vocabulary than those who aren’t read to. Reading enhances a child’s vocabulary and it can help them understand how to read and write, but reading aloud to children also helps them to understand different topics about the world and everyday life. As we grow up, reading can become part of our toolkit to deal with stress. In 2009, scientists at the University of Sussex studied how different activities lowered stress by measuring heart rate and muscle tension. Reading a book for just six minutes lowered people’s stress levels by 68 percent—a stronger effect than going for a walk, drinking a cup of tea or coffee or listening to music. Reading can also help you live longer. A team at Yale University followed more than 3600 adults over the age of 50 for 12 years. They found that people who read books for 30 minutes a day lived nearly two years longer than those who read magazines or newspapers. The benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read more !!

Today’s reality includes a lot more technology than when this important day was first launched. Some children now often prefer to play on an iPad than get lost in a good book. What can we do to encourage a love of reading?

Encouraging reading is important and there are lots of things to consider. Ensure that your children see you reading is the first thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s the newspaper, a cookery book, a computer manual, magazine – anything is good. Lead by example. Encourage children to join in – ask a child to read out a recipe for you as you cook, or the TV listings when you are turning on the  TV. Give books or book tokens as presents and visit the local library together on a regular basis, and enjoy spending time choosing new books. Keep reading together. There are lots of books that both adults and young people can enjoy – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, the Harry Potter series, or The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Read books you can all talk about. There are also great Irish language books now for children such as Harry Potter – Harry Potter agus an Órchloch ! I’m resding  An Leon, An Bandraoi agus An Prios Éadaigh myself at the moment, an Irish translation of CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Aside from escaping the pressures of the modern day are there other proven benefits to reading for adults?

Reading can change us a person. A University of Toronto research team asked 166 people to fill out questionnaires regarding their emotions and key personality traits, based on the widely used inventory which measures extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability/neuroticism, and openness. Half of the group read Anton Chekhov’s short story The Lady with the Toy Dog, about a man who travels to a resort and has an affair with a married woman. The other half of the group read a similar nonfiction version presented as a report from divorce proceedings. After, everyone answered the same personality questions they’d answered before—and many of the fiction readers’ responses had significantly changed. They saw themselves differently after reading about others’ fictional experience. The nonfiction readers didn’t undergo this change in self-reflection.

The aim of World Book Day is to celebrate authors, books, illustrators and of course reading! What are some of the books on your current ‘to-be-read’ list?

I have a pile in my living room which are to be tackled over the next few months ! Things in Jars by Jess Kidd, Last Witnesses by Svetlana Alexievich, The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting, Mama’s Last Hug by Frans De Waal and Elmet by Fiona Mozley are my immediate priorities. I also use Audible a lot when I walk every day and I’m listening to The Secret History read by the author Donna Tartt at the moment.

 Can you tell us about your favourite science book(s)?

The Flamingo’s Smile by Stephen Jay Gould, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks, The Emperor Of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

What is your favourite science fact, if you can narrow it down to one?!

Answering the question why the sky is blue is my favourite thing because it’s a question we’ve all asked since childhood. I also like that it was research by an Irishman John Tyndall  which explored and solved this question. He used a simple glass tube to simulate the sky, with a white light at one end to represent the sun. He discovered that when he gradually filled the tube with smoke the beam of light appeared to be blue from the side but red from the far end. Tyndall realised that the colour of the sky is a result of light from the sun scattering around particles in the upper atmosphere, in what is now known as the “Tyndall effect”. He thought that the light scattered off particles of dust or water vapour in the atmosphere, like the smoke particles in the tube, but it’s now known that the light scatters off the molecules of the air itself. Tyndall knew that white light was made up of a whole rainbow of coloured light and thought that the blue light appeared because it was more likely to scatter off the particles. We now know that this is because it has a much shorter wavelength than red light and is much more easily scattered, so to our eyes the sky looks blue.

 

 

Electricity and Engineering in Edenderry!

Yesterday we were delighted to present a hands-on, interactive workshop for a number of students in association with Edenderry Library in Co. Offaly. This event was an early part of a programme of activities which is being rolled out across the region by Midlands Science during national Engineers Week which takes place nationally from this Saturday.

Engineers Week promotes engineering and the importance of the profession to pupils all over Ireland and the aim of each event is to positively showcase engineering as a rewarding and creative career choice to people in all communities.

This workshop gave students from St. Mary’s Secondary School and Oaklands Community College in Edenderry a chance to explore the worlds of electricity, magnetism and semiconductor devices (the building blocks of computers) in a hands-on and relaxed environment.

The workshops were delivered by Dr. Dan Nickström from Maynooth University Dept. of Experimental Physics and we are looking forward to lots more fun and engaging events with Dan in the weeks ahead.

Time to Quit!

Today we celebrate National No Smoking Day in Ireland. The purpose of No Smoking Day is to campaign for greater awareness about the health dangers associated with smoking. Smoking is banned fully in indoors workplaces, healthcare facilities, education facilities, public transport, enclosed public places, bars, and restaurants and according to statistics, public opinion is in favour on the bans on smoking so ‘No Smoking Day’ is part of a massive anti-tobacco campaign.

Here’s Jackie who works for Midlands Science with her mother Gladys who was a smoker. She gave them up over 40 years ago and is fine health and turns 83 this summer. She worked in Ericsson in Athlone and in this photo, she is holding a glass Viking she received from the company at the time, as an acknowledgement of her giving up smoking as part of the company’s healthy employeee campaign. She still talks about what a difference giving up smoking made to her life. Here’s a little about the #science of quitting smoking.

https://www.livescience.com/43293-quit-smoking-tips.html

#nosmokingday

Dr. Mindflip comes to Athlone for Engineer’s Week

Midlands Science is pleased to announce that ‘Dr. Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience’ will be cruising into Athlone as part of the annual Engineer’s Week celebrations which will be taking place across the Midlands in the coming weeks.

Engineers Week is a week-long festival of nationwide activities celebrating the world of engineering in Ireland and events kick off on February 29th in a number of schools, libraries and other venues around the country. Dr. Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience is aimed towards secondary students and was developed in partnership with Dr. Dan Nickström from The Department of Experimental Physics at Maynooth University and a large team of artists, designers, musicians, gamers and actors.

When asked what to expect, Dan said, “Dr Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience is a light-hearted and educational choose-your-own-adventure-game which takes place in a specially designed caravan that’s kitted out to allow participants to explore the many aspects of physics in a fun and unique way. It’s funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Institute of Physics and takes a gaming approach to learning so each choice that people make determines what will happen next. I am delighted to be coming to the Aidan Heavy Library for a drop-in event in Athlone in March and look forward to meeting as many people as possible to join in the Engineer’s Week celebrations in the Midlands for 2020. And don’t worry if you know absolutely nothing about physics, all you need is a curious mind!”

In 2019, there were over 850 Engineers Week activities organised in the community. The aim of each event is to positively showcase engineering as a rewarding and creative career choice to children in all communities. This fantastic, free Midlands Science engineering experience is being delivered in Co. Westmeath in partnership with the Aidan Heavy Library in Athlone and it will take place there from 11am until 4pm on March 4th. Each session can facilitate six people at a time and each session lasts twenty minutes. The event is suitable for ages 13 and up.

Mae McLynn of the Aidan Heavy Library said, ‘We are really looking forward to hosting this Midlands Science event and to welcoming Dr. Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience to Athlone. The library is always looking for ways to encourage more enthusiasm and interest in both engineering and science as future career options amongst second level pupils and this is the ideal way to do exactly that in a fun and interactive way.’

This is a drop in event. Please contact Mae McLynn in the Aidan Heavey Public Library, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

090 6442157 for further information.

Photo:

Dr. Dan Nickström from Maynooth University at a recent Midlands Science Experience Engineering event with Westmeath students.

 

 

 

Mullingar Students ‘Experience Engineering’ with Midlands Science

Midlands Science teamed up with a range of local and national partners recently to host a special week of career workshops, hands on project work and inspirational talks from companies such as ORS, Robotics and Drives, Shay Murtagh, Waterways Ireland, Steripack, and Cpl resources. A number of transition year students from Coláiste Mhuire Mullingar participated in the week Experience Engineering which also focused on other various key learning aspects such as, CV preparation, interview skills and internship opportunities.

A primary objective for Midlands Science is the development and implementation of awareness-raising initiatives designed to increase science capital in the region. For this to succeed, there needs to be a more joined-up approach within the many sectors of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. This includes the sharing of expertise, participation in out-of-school science learning contexts, for example how often a young person participates in informal science learning contexts and continuing to highlight the message that STEM subjects are relevant for everyone. With this in mind, participants were briefed and given the opportunity to work  as part of a project team which involved planning ideas and looking at the diversity of the field and the types of engineers that would be needed for specific engineering projects.

John Brennan, Managing Director of ORS in Mullingar commented,

“Engineers and surveyors are in increasing demand in Ireland and a supply of talented graduates from both professions is fundamental for our social and economic future. ORS was delighted to support and participate in this innovative initiative to increase knowledge and understanding of the world of engineering and surveying and encourage more of our future generation to consider them as potential third level and career choices. By setting the students a hands-on challenge we hopefully encouraged them to really think about how vast engineering and surveying can be, to get creative and have fun while at the same time learn about how to find solutions to the many urban and environmental challenges that we face in society today.’

Science and engineering fields play an ever-increasing role in Ireland’s future within the global economy. Continued focus on education and training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will open doors to today’s students in jobs they might not yet have even heard of. Change is happening all around us at an alarming pace in workplaces, the economy and our everyday and most of this change is driven by developments in STEM.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said, ‘Through specially designed programmes like ‘Experience Engineering’  we are aiming to ensure that as many young people as possible understand the economic, cultural and environmental impact that engineering can have. We are most grateful to all of our partners who helped to make this programme so worthwhile and with their assistance and support, we hope to be in a position to continue to provide opportunities like this to more students around the region into the future focusing on other sectors. Pauline Nally, Business Development Executive with Midlands Science played a key role in the development of this pilot, based on feedback from students that they faced significant difficulties accessing STEM based work experiences which would help them to decide on college courses and careers for the future.’