Engineer’s Week in Athlone!

Midlands Science collaborated with Gas Networks Ireland and the Gateway Youth Project in Athlone recently to deliver a series of engaging and interactive workshops to primary school pupils as part of the recent national ‘Engineers Week’ celebrations.

Declan Holmes of ‘Science Ireland’ has been presenting interactive science shows to over 80,000 students in 1,000 schools around the country since 2001 and his workshops in the Midlands this week featured the science behind rockets, creating waves and musical instruments followed by a discussion on the future of engineering from how we power our houses to self-driving cars.

Christina van der Kamp, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Gas Networks Ireland said,

Gas Networks Ireland is very pleased to be collaborating with Midlands Science during ‘Engineers Week’ to deliver a day of exciting and interactive workshops to over 500 pupils in Athlone. We are passionate about introducing young people to the exciting world of science and engineering from an early age and this initiative is the ideal way to do so and at the same time, it enables us to connect with the local community. We actively encourage young people to consider the whole world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and showing them how it impacts our lives on an everyday basis is a great place to start.’

The annual Engineers Week event is coordinated on a national basis by Engineers Ireland’s STEPS programme which is funded under Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover programme. Midlands Science together with industry and academic partners wanted to ensure that a focus was given to encouraging young people locally to take a closer look at engineering and demonstrate how far-reaching, creative and innovative engineering actually is as a sector.



At Google we are passionate about STEM

The Midlands Science Festival is proud to name Google as a new supporting partner for 2017. We had a chat with Google’s Claire Conneely, Computer Science Education Outreach team (EMEA) to hear a little about the company’s STEM outreach and why its so important for them to support events like Science Week and the Midlands Science Festival.

Claire, we are delighted that you will be supporting this year’s Midlands Science Festival and are proud to name Google as a partner. Can you tell us a bit about the type of STEM outreach that Google does in Ireland?
At Google we are passionate about STEM, in particular Computer Science (CS). I am part of the CS Education team at Google – we are a global team who help millions of students and educators across the world develop technical skills for the future. More than 65% of students will work in jobs that don’t even exist today (

At Google, want to help prepare them for that future by getting them excited about where CS can take them. Coding allows students to learn with​ technology (not from​ it, as is all-too-often the case) and to be active creators of their own content, not passive consumers. Many transferrable skills can be learned through studying CS, such as Computational Thinking, logic, problem solving – skills that we use at Google every day!

Do you have a science or technology background yourself?
Not exactly… music was my first passion! I originally studied to become a secondary school music teacher, which I did for a number of years and absolutely loved. In those early years of teaching, I
became fascinated by technology and its role in helping students learn, so I decided to return to college to do a Masters in Technology and Learning. From there, I got the opportunity to join a small team in Trinity College Dublin to co-found and develop a new STEM outreach programme, which eventually became Bridge21. I’m very proud that today it’s one of the university’s flagship outreach programmes. Three years ago I had the chance to apply for this job at Google and I’ve been here ever since!

Recent data shows that Ireland continues to experience a skills shortage in the STEM sector. Why is it important for companies like Google 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?
We are delighted to be able to sponsor important events like the Midlands Science festival. The best way to dispel the myths about STEM is to expose students from an early age. It is also about lighting a spark and then keeping that spark alive throughout primary and second-level schooling, for those who have
the interest and aptitude. Some 98% of our engineers at Google had some level of exposure to CS before college. I am thrilled to see the introduction of Computational Thinking to the Primary School Maths curriculum, and the new Leaving Certificate Computer Science subject. Great opportunities lie ahead for our young people in years to come!

Are there are any specific challenges in attracting women into science and technology related fields and do you have any suggestions on how this could be addressed?

So many girls start out with a love of science and technology, but lose it somewhere along the way. Google believes that a diverse workforce leads to better products for diverse users and we are especially committed to reversing the negative trends around women in technology-related fields, in particular CS.

To guide our outreach and investments in this space, we conducted a study in 2014 to identify and understand the factors that influence young women’s decisions to pursue degrees in CS. It identified
encouragement and exposure as the leading factors influencing this critical choice and learned that anyone can help increase female participation in CS, regardless of their technical abilities or background. The most encouraging outcome of the study was that these factors have practical solutions, that anyone can undertake, requiring little more than time and interest. There’s enormous potential for positive change in this space!

What is your favourite science fact?
Your heartbeat mimics the beat of the music you’re listening to.

Who doesn’t like to make slime!?

We are really excited about welcoming the Junior Einsteins Science Club’ to Laois this year. This unique club incorporates core science into fun sessions of hands-on  experiments designed to stimulate and create a love of science and nature.

Pupils will get to make and do their own experiments wearing their lab coats and goggles and using real scientific equipment including a university grade Van Der Graff Generator. This is always a popular one and we cant wait!




The countdown is on for this year’s Midlands Science Festival which takes place across the counties of Longford, Laois, Offaly and Westmeath from November 12th- 19th as part of national Science Week. The festival will highlight how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) is fundamental to everyday life, and demonstrate STEM’s importance to the future development of our society and economy.

The festival team is delighted to announce an exciting, free-of-charge event which will take place on Saturday, November 11th in St. Mel’s secondary school in Longford from 10:00am until 2:00pm. The event will be run in partnership with Abbott, one of Ireland’s leading healthcare companies, and will offer the public a unique opportunity for students ages 12-14 and their parents or guardians to experience a whole range of science and technology activities including Dinosaur Science, Curious Chemistry, The Reptile Zoo, The Science of Energy Drinks, Drone and Robot Coding and high value career advice during this innovative ‘Discovery Day.’

Jackie Gorman, Director of the Midlands Science Festival said,

‘The Midlands Science Festival is all about taking the traditional notion of science out of the lab and into places like libraries, sports clubs and classrooms, giving people a variety of diverse ways to explore the world around them and to learn something new and beneficial. The overall week-long event is an opportunity to delve into science through a programme of interactive workshops, informative seminars and shows developed by ourselves in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland and thanks to the generosity of partners such as Abbott, we are now heading into our fifth year and our 2017 festival promises to be even bigger and better.’

Science Week is a free, family-friendly programme of events which allows people of all ages to discover something new, participate in a large number of hands-on science and technology activities and see a whole host of live discussions with science enthusiasts and communicators, corporate partners, business and science experts.

Plant Manager of Abbott’s diagnostics facility in Longford, Ciaran Corcoran said,

‘At Abbott, we’re all about helping you live the best life you can through good health. Learning events like the Midlands Science Festival promote the importance of science and technology skills amongst the next generation. By advancing science and technology, we’re shaping new methods of care and improving treatment standards around the world. We want to help students discover a love of science, technology, engineering and math, and make them aware of the many STEM career opportunities that exist. This free event also will provide parents with a unique opportunity to learn about STEM as well, through an assortment of family science experiments and demonstrations, as well as specialist career talks that offer insights into the diversity of roles and career options.’

Places are limited so please remember to book. See for details.

Please contact Jackie Gorman for further information 0579323902

Photo: Reptile Zoo tortoise who will visit St. Mel’s in Longford for the day

Successful Science Show Learning for Mountrath School

Local development company Midlands Science recently collaborated with the Community Foundation of Ireland to provide an assortment of engaging and interactive workshops for the pupils of Scoil Bhride in Mountrath. The National Reptile Zoo visited the school in June and the girls and boys had the opportunity to get up close and personal with some scaly creatures such as a snake, turtle and lizard. They also enjoyed energy and electricity workshops with ‘Anyone for Science’ and the ‘Rediscovery Centre’ and they also had a lot of fun with the teams from ‘Junior Einsteins Science Club’ and ‘Go Fly Your Kite.
Jackie Harrison, Head of Development for the Community Foundation said,
‘The Community Foundation was delighted to partner with Midlands Science in order to deliver a variety of science shows to Scoil Bhride in Mountrath over the past six months. From the Reptile Zoo Village to investigations in static electricity using a range of materials, we hope that pupils got to experience first-hand the fun and scope of science learning. The Community Foundation for Ireland works with donors to optimise their philanthropic giving and in 2016, there were over 70 donor advised funds at the Foundation which enabled us to work with over 4,000 community and voluntary organisations to create social impact in Ireland. It was wonderful to be able to provide this funding in the Co. Laois and hopefully it will inspire more young people from across the Midlands to consider science when choosing future subjects and career options.’
Mary Keegan principal at Scoil Bhride in Mountrath said,
‘We were delighted to welcome a number of wide ranging science performers to our school over the past year with thanks to Midlands Science and the generosity of a private donor who provided funds for these events through the Community Foundation.
We are very grateful to all parties who enabled this to happen as we believe that by creating a more fun and innovative approach to learning science, pupils will have a much better appreciation for how diverse, exciting and far-reaching science actually is. We look forward to more future science shows here in Mountrath and in continuing to spread the message that science is so important for the future and is all around us in so many aspects of life.’

Seeking Science Communicators!

For the past five year, the Midlands Science Festival team has been working with science engagement professionals to help us reach new audiences, improve how we carry out our work and continue to promote science as a critical part of culture and society.

Every year we try to find and build relationships with people who are interested in having or facilitating conversations about science and highlighting just how much it is a part of everyday life. Science communicators help shape our thinking. They help us to make science more accessible, help us to come up with new and innovative ways to spread science stories and they often introduce us to a more diverse range of new networking and learning opportunities across the different sectors of science communication and engagement.

Our events are for all people of all ages involved and interested in conversations about science, whether you are a scientist who does science communication as a part of your job, a volunteer, or a full-time professional in science communication and public engagement. If you would like to talk to us about getting involved in some of the work we do please get in touch and we look forward to hearing from you.

Beach safety, life boats and more for Tullamore!

Photography : Jeff Harvey

We are really excited about having a local volunteer from the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) at this year’s Midlands Science Festival.


Ronan Adams, who is originally from Tullamore, will be returning to his old stomping ground (primary school) to talk to young pupils about everything from beach and water safety, saving lives at sea and how lifeboats work.

Sir William Hillary is credited with founding the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, later renamed the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1854. The way in which people use the sea has changed dramatically since the RNLI’s foundation. More people are using the water for leisure so our lifesaving service has had to change accordingly.

The RNLI saves lives at sea but beyond the fantastic work they do on lifeboats, on the water and at beaches, they also play an active part in the community too. We are delighted to welcome Ronan to local schools where he will talk to children all about safety in the water, things like why we have life guards and coast guards and how important rescue using life boats works. Ronan is the Sailing Manager at the Royal St. George Yacht Club

We think the pupils will really enjoy this one and hopefully they will learn something valuable too!


In Conversation with Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy T.D.

With just a few weeks to go until Science Week kicks off, we caught up with friend to the Midlands Science Festival, Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy T.D. Minister of State for Health Promotion to talk about the importance of science education promotion, national STEM initiatives and what we can be doing to encourage a love for science at as early an age as possible.

In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in investment in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education from government to engage young people with STEM but the number of people applying to STEM courses still needs to be increased. Is there enough being done to make schools/teachers aware of the importance of the national STEM agenda?
I think it is great to see an increase in the number of people applying to STEM courses. Initiatives like Science Week, Smart Futures and the brilliant work being done by Science Foundation Ireland are helping to improve public engagement and an increased uptake in STEM education courses. Of course there is always room for improvement but significant work is being done by the Department of Education and Skills to encourage increase participation in STEM courses.
The Department launched the National Skills Strategy 2025 in January 2016. The purpose of this strategy is to provide a framework for skills development to drive Ireland’s economic growth over the next 10 years.
A significant element of this strategy is to raise awareness of STEM courses and careers through innovative initiatives as mentioned above. This strategy also envisages a review of how STEM courses can be further incentivised and supported in Higher Education. A review is also going to be carried out on career guidance services and how STEM courses are promoted in schools particularly to female students.
In our work we have noticed the impact inspiring teachers can have on attitudes towards science. Do you think we could be doing more about primary level to encourage a love for STEM at an earlier age?

All of us remember the most inspiring teachers during our time in school and if teachers are passionate and engaged in STEM subjects then this will encourage children in Primary Education to engage with STEM.
Science Foundation Ireland runs a very successful programme called Discover Primary Science and Maths (DPSM) which supports teachers to advance science, technology, engineering and maths in schools and to make them more stimulating, relevant and visual for children.
In 2015/2016 over 800 teachers participated in a programme of Continuous Professional Development for STEM course. Over 500 schools participate in the Awards of Science and Maths Excellence which encourages and rewards schools for promoting STEM.
The Discover Primary Science and Maths (DPSM) programme has a network of 56 Science Foundation Ireland ‘Discover Centres’ that provide engaging science education outside the classroom environment. These centres include Dublin Zoo, National Parks, observatories and aquariums.

The challenge of attracting girls into STEM continues. What are the barriers do you think – Is it difficult subject syllabus, lack of career guidance or the perception that these subjects are still more male dominated?
This is no doubt a challenge for policymakers to change the perception of STEM carriers as being women friendly and in fairness I think progress is being made in this regard.
Smart Futures is a Government and Industry supported education programme supporting STEM careers in Secondary Schools and among career guidance teachers in Ireland. Smart Futures is working with Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) to encourage more women to choose STEM career options.

A recent survey by Smart Futures found 65% of undergraduate women found ‘fitting in’ to be the most important factor when choosing a third-level degree programme. This highlights the importance of tackling negative stereotypes of STEM careers which can discourage women from making that first step towards a career in STEM. There are positive changes being made and the survey showed that initiatives like Science Week are helping to change the negative stereotypes. I also think it is hugely important for potential STEM students to be inspired by positive role models like the famous female scientist Mary Ward from my own hometown in Ferbane in County Offaly.
Smart Futures is a Government-industry initiative providing access to STEM careers information and role models to second-level students, parents, teachers and careers guidance staff. For this to succeed, volunteers are necessary. What would you say to encourage more people to get involved in this initiative to change perceptions of careers in STEM?
I would encourage all schools to engage with Smart Futures programme. As discussed above it is making significant progress in promoting STEM in schools at every level.

Exciting new science curriculums at second level are scheduled to be introduced over the coming years, will this make a difference to securing the next generation of scientists and engineers in your view?
If the image of careers in STEM being the preserve of ‘nerdy’ students and not for everybody then the new science curriculums proposed for Secondary Schools will need to inspire students who in the past may have made alternative careers choices. Careers in STEM can be extremely rewarding and they are among the best paid careers in the country. Every effort must be made to educate the next generation of the hugely varied career opportunities within the STEM sector.

Stuck for summer holiday activities?

PlaydoughPlaydough is a great way to help children develop control and strength of the muscles in their fingers and really use their imagination ..Here we are making a whole variety of cupcakes! They can learn to roll, press, flatten, shape..The possibilities are endless and it’s so much fun too!

Some sweet memories..

Science of Choc 1Not that we are allowed to pick favourites, but this was a very special event indeed! You can listen to podcast below to find out more about why we love chocolate and the science behind it!