Visit to Local Medical Device Company for Science Week

Midlands Science was delighted to team up with local company Europharma Concepts Ltd (EPC) during this year’s Science Week to demonstrate to a number of Midlands students what it is like to work in a medical device company. A group of pupils from Ardscoil Chiarain Naofa visited the plant last week to learn all about the inner workings of a company like this and to explore a range of science related careers.

Declan Lenahan of EuroPharma Concepts said,

‘Europharma Concepts was delighted to join forces with local development company Midlands Science and the Midlands Science festival team for Science Week 2019. It is important for Europharma Concepts as an employer to provide the local student population with encouraging experiences of real-world science and we were delighted to host a number of young people from Ardscoil Chiarain Naofa for a plant tour here in Clara last week. Allowing them to see the internal workings of our company is an ideal way to explain the diverse range of science and technology jobs out there. The aim is to generate an increased interest in science fields and work towards inspiring the next generation of scientists in the Midlands and beyond.’

Founded in 2007 as the only oral healthcare manufacture in Ireland, Europharma Concepts Ltd (EPC) has growing from strength to strength and has become an industry leader in the development and manufacturing of Oral Care, Cosmetics and liquid filled Medical Device products.

The Midlands Science Festival which took place across the region last week celebrates science with original programming that includes lively debates and lectures, film productions, hands-on workshops and interactive demonstrations for people of all ages.

Jackie Gorman, Midlands Science CEO said,

‘One of the main objectives of this week-long event is to demonstrate the many exciting career opportunities available within Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths disciplines. There is a real urgency in society today to ensure that young people are getting the best type of careers advice possible and by taking it beyond just the classroom and into real working environments, we hope we are going in the right direction. We need to increase interest in these fields and work towards inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. The festival team places a strong emphasis on mentoring from role models and champions from those in the science education and corporate sectors and it is also wonderful to have opportunities such as site visits to pharmaceutical or medical technology companies during Science Week in order to reach as many students as possible and to encourage them to consider these all-important fields and the related course options.’

We need dreamers and imagineers!

We were really pleased to have the opportunity to talk to Geoff Allen, CEO of Athlone based company, Mersus Technologies, in advance of this year’s Midlands Science Festival. Mersus Technologies is providing students with a unique insight into the world of Virtual Reality through their activities for Science Week this year as part of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers event ‘Aspire with Abbott’ in Longford this week. Here is what Geoff had to say…..

Can you tell her a little about Mersus Technologies ?

At the genesis of Mersus Technologies in 2012, NUIG Huston film school graduates, Dermot Condron and Geoffrey Allen combined innovation with three decades of experience to create a dynamic new ‘creative first’ approach to digital media production. A holistic way that would see talented artists working hand in hand with peerless creative software engineers.

Since then, the team has gone about building the Mersus’ brand into what is now recognised as a knowledge leader in the immersive content space in Ireland. Working with manufacturing leaders Siemens, Camfil and Irish Manufacturing Research, alongside the National Institute for Biopharma Research and Training (NIBRT), Mersus Technologies is the number one choice for creative and innovative digital solutions.

Leveraging our Irish aptitude for storytelling, with Mersus’ artistic talent and deep technical knowledge, makes us Ireland’s No. 1 for virtual training. The AVATAR ACADEMY™ platform captures the kind of complex procedures common throughout the Life Science, Biopharma or Medtech industry for replay at the User’s own pace, increasing learning out-comes. 

Allowing trainees to learn the basics until they are comfortable and proficient with the required task will remove a level of expense and risk before they advance to the next level in what are tightly controlled environments. Historically, early adopters of disruptive technology are rewarded by substantial increases in their productivity and this aids their digital transformation. Mersus are confident that adopting the AVATAR ACADEMY™ virtual training platform, can add value across the entire value chain for industry.

The value proposition is anchored in creativity first, followed by computer Science/Engineering. With the emphasis on superior aesthetic values, backed by a deep knowledge of the technical performance required, Mersus Technologies deliver an unequaled User Experience.  This makes Mersus unique in the field, delivering a superior product to that of our competitors. All this takes place under one roof to guarantee the kind of data integrity required today. 

Our goal at Mersus is to create high-value jobs in Ireland, that will help businesses compete on the world stage, our core values are 

 

  • Embracing and driving change.
  • Create fun and have pride in our work.
  • Be fearless, creative, and open-minded.
  • Value Knowledge, pursue understanding and practice wisdom.

 

Many technology companies choose Dublin as a location, how do you feel about the Midlands as a location ?

I am loath to tell anyone about the fantastic quality of life and opportunity lest they all move here! I love Dublin but the Dublin where I bought a house for £32,000 back in 1990! The world of 2019 is one that sees and takes for granted instant communication and access to the rest of the world, all at our fingertips. My own career producing media straddles the analog realm into the digital where the scalability involved is frightening, and not set to slow down anytime soon. Therefore if you are in certain industries your location becomes agnostic. 

Dublin has shot up the ranking in terms of a centre of international commerce but then again so has the cost of living. We have the highest costs of building apartments and very poor quality apartments they tend to be too. Urban sprawl see lives wasted sitting in traffic and this all dissolves with a life in rural Ireland. Okay connectivity can be an issue but when you factor in the swings and roundabouts I believe living outside the Dublin hinterland offers pound for pound a better lifestyle for families. 

Our operational model could not exist in Dublin as I couldn’t afford to build what we have done in the competitive landscape where our stakeholders would be facing high rents, ridiculous childcare costs and long commutes. The cost base here is lower and demand on our team is far more laid back. 

The recent publication of the Collins McNicholas Midlands skills survey reinforces the abundant opportunities that exist in the likes of Longford, Ballinasloe and Athlone (Link to download PDF: https://www.collinsmcnicholas.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/CMCN-MIDLANDS-Skills-Survey.pdf). Our IDA are attracting global powerhouses to these shores and they in turn have supply chain demand that trickles down to every corner of Ireland, be it supply of goods or services to support these firms.

 

Is Virtual Reality design a good career option for a particular type of person ?

Oh yeah! First and foremost we need dreamers and imagineers. The folks who get lost in their own imaginations. The real beauty of my job is that I get to see the future. I am privileged to get inside all of the top facilities who are in need of Mersus to help them adopt Industry 4.0 methods. Last month we were invited to join some of Ireland’s leading companies on a tour of German industry; Marquee Engineering and Scientific establishments and the human involvement in these places is changing rapidly. Computing will never replace abstract thought and imagination. Artificial Intelligence tends to be deep and in specific areas and not broad and creative. It will be a while still before a computer can imagine and thus create and deliver a good story. 

You have an artistic flair: If you enjoy doodling and enjoy art in all its forms….

A good eye for detail: When designing for the user, it’s important to think about every single tiny detail – not just aesthetically, but in terms of functionality too. You’ll also need to revise and refine your designs until they are market-ready, so an eye for detail and a tendency towards perfectionism will go a long way.

If you are interested in technology: It’s such a multidisciplinary field, comprising elements of design, human psychology, problem-solving and business. You’ll rarely be stuck at your desk doing the same task over and over, so you need to be comfortable doing varied tasks and navigating an extremely varied to-do list!

You enjoy problem-solving: How do you create the optimal product within the given time and budget constraints, and how do you design for the user while fulfilling the business objectives? If you’re a problem-solver by nature, you’ll have plenty to offer in a VR design role.

You’re a good collaborator: It’s a highly collaborative field, requiring clear communication and solid teamwork. If you enjoy working with others and are confident when it comes to presenting your ideas, you will go far.

You’re prepared for a steep learning curve: with VR design here’s so much to learn and explore that it never gets boring. If you are brand new to the field, you should be prepared for a steep learning curve – but as long as you’re passionate, it’s always exciting. You’ll need to constantly upskill in order to succeed, and keep in pace with technological updates. If you’re a keen learner and always want to better yourself, VR is a field that will push you to do so.

 

If someone wanted to get into Virtual Reality design, what are good courses to consider? 

Mersus are very involved in shaping the future and helping in the development of courses aligned to our talent pipeline. Working with academic leaders like Dundalk Institute of Technology who we helped get approval for the first dedicated Bachelor of Science in Augmented and Virtual-Reality. This is a great college for the more technically inclined. 

For the more creative, we would recommend the Bachelor of Arts in Design in Galway/Mayo Institute leading into their Gaming and Animation strand. Again Mersus host work placement students from this course each year to give them some real world experience and a flavour of what a job in this industry entails. 

 

Others avenues for consideration would be:

 

An Introduction to Augmented & Virtual Reality | Virtual/Augmented Reality (Springboard)- AIT (Two levels).

Higher Diploma in VR/AR Development – DKIT.

Bachelor’s Degree in Design – GMIT – divides into Game Design Year Two.

Computer Science – Augmented and Virtual Reality -TCD.

There are many self learning avenues too with a lot of material available on YouTube, Udemy, Udacity and other online resources. These are very low cost options and where a lot of our team turn to.

If you could give advice to yourself as a Leaving Cert student knowing what you know now, what would you say to 18 year old Geoff!

Ha! I do love this question! Academics were never my strong suit! That said, I someday intend to finish my formal education in completing a PhD. I do love academia as it affords one the opportunity to debate and discuss with one’s peers without undue pressure. College is a fantastic stage of life but more for the social aspect these days given the gargantuan shift in the way we are learning via technology. Learning is taking a new form and the traditional education system that exists today is set to be disrupted. There is a fantastic array for online learning that is growing every day each day. Take for example… Sugata Mitra’s ‘The School in the Cloud documentary’. 

Never has there been a better time for you to follow where you feel you want to go.  Don’t seek things, seek knowledge. As purveyor of the virtual, nothing beats human interaction. Laughs, even cries are what makes us human. I still think that to be human is awesome, never before can we go everywhere and see everything at such a low cost. I had an interview in London in 1989 and it cost £300 to fly there!

I have had a charmed life of privilege in terms of education and opportunity. Those who have, need to give. The person with nothing will give you half of what they have, but those with much…. will give you nothing. The 50 year old Geoff knows now that we have a lot here in Ireland. The Ireland that I grew up in was monochromatic. Today we are blessed with many many cultures who contribute at many levels that Ireland today could not exist without.   

 

‘Everything happens at the edge of chaos’

 

Talking STEM Careers with the Next Generation …

We are really pleased to team up with a number of expert speakers for Science Week 2019 to deliver a range of high value career talks to schools across the region. Speakers will include biomedical scientist,  lecturer and science communicator Dr. Craig Slattery who is also Chairperson of Midlands Science, Dr Helena Bonner of the Royal College of Surgeons and Midlands native and senior Intel manager, Bridget Molloy who will address senior cycle students in relation to subjects and future careers in STEM.

Bridget Molly commented,

‘I am delighted to be returning to Tullamore as part of this year’s Midlands Science Festival. It is so important to enable students to connect learning to actual real-world situations and show them how much innovation there is in science and technology fields. Midlands Science is doing extensive work to give local schools the opportunity to develop their knowledge of the world of work and the types of future jobs that might be available to them, particularly in the subject areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). The more work that can be done in this area, the more likely it is that students will consider one of these fields as a future career option. I am really happy to support this and participate in the aim of inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers and I am really looking forward to seeing what else will be taking place during this year’s festival which promises to be engaging, educational and fun.’

#believeinscience

Ciara’s Journey to Tullamore College

As part of our co-created film with Offaly secondary school, Tullamore College, we were delighted to facilitate a visit from Westmeath based science fanatic, Ciara last week.

Ciara said,

“Thank you to the TY students who have created this video for Science Week. We all have a chance to make a difference, no matter how small and there is no age limit to learning about what changes we can make today”

www.ciarasjourney.ie

Talking Innovation & Technology at Tullamore College

Midlands Science was delighted to recently welcome two expert speaker to Tullamore College where they delivered a highly engaging and informative talk to senior students .

Caroline Brazil (originally from the Midlands and a Senior Manager with Accenture) and Déaglán Campbell, Design Lecturer in Dept. of Mechanical, Polymer & Design, at Athlone Institute of Technology focused their talks on Innovation and feedback from teachers and students was extremely positive. We look forward to many more talks in schools across the region before the end of this school year.

 

Something for Everyone!

Harper Quigley from Longford
Photo by Shelley Corcoran

Tuesday of Science Week across the Midlands got off to a flying start with a taste of Space Science, some Google Workshops focusing on computer science and some Dangerous Equations With Marty Jopson. Later in the day we will have The Science Of A Grand Soft Day With Ireland’s Favourite Weatherman Gerald Fleming, What Happens Next With David Featonby, Pollinators, Music & Plants, The Science Of Golf and much more! Another action packed day of science innovation, learning and fun right across the region.

Driving the Digital Revolution in the Midlands with Wriggle

Wriggle Roadcaster bus at Citywest Conference Centre.
Pictured is Simon Close, Primarty Level Lead Wriggle.ie, demostrates the ‘Sphere Robitics’.
Picture by Colm Mahady / Fennells – Copyright© Fennell Photography 2018

We are delighted to be providing some very new and exciting training this year for primary and secondary school teachers during Science Week with Irish educational technology company, Wriggle Learning. Using their Roadcaster, training from Wriggle will include Sphero, micro:bit, coding and VR/AR to demonstrate how technology can be used to support teaching and learning in schools across the country.

 
I caught up Simon Close, Wriggle’s Primary School Lead, to find out more.
 
Simon, we are really excited to be featuring Wriggle for the first time during Midlands Science Festival 2018! Your mission statement says, ‘At Wriggle, we pull all the pieces of the puzzle together.’ Can you tell us what this means and a little about what Wriggle do to support a school’s digital journey?
There have been significant changes to the Irish school curriculum in the last 5 or 6 years, particularly at post primary level with the introduction of the JCSA in 2014 and redesign and modification is still happening, which is fantastic. At the heart of this change is the use of technology. However, working with our partner schools, teachers and the wider school community, we have seen first-hand that we can’t simply throw the latest technology at a school and assume that change will happen overnight. The implementation of technology for teaching and learning needs to be considered, well thought out and ultimately, desired by all of those involved.
We support schools with formulating a longer-term vision for the use of technology in the classroom as well as providing the fundamental elements to make it happen i.e. technology, content, support and training.
 
Wriggle’s continuing professional development (CPD) model works with groups of educators in schools throughout Ireland to develop their skills and maximise the use of technology in their teaching. Have you delivered this to many teachers to date and what has the feedback been like?
To date, we have delivered training to more than 10,000 teachers throughout Ireland and we have seen a big jump in the last 12 months from teachers and schools looking to engage with us to deliver CPD. The importance of technology at Junior Cycle has meant schools are now having to utilise ePortfolio’s to store student work, carry out Class Based Assessment (CBA) and potentially introduce coding as part of the short course requirements.
The training workshops that we provide ensure that teachers are comfortable and proficient using the technology that is aligned to elements such as these.
 
Can you tell us about your own background and what led to your current role at Wriggle?
I started out working with our partner company Typetec in their graphic arts division having completed a business degree in DIT. I have been with Wriggle since its inception in 2013 and my roles to date have been focussed mainly around sales and marketing but when working for a start-up you do find yourself getting involved in all elements of the business which can be a real eye opener!
Supported by an incredible team, we have driven strong growth at post primary level and are now partnered with close to 200 schools and manage and support more than 40,000 devices. In 2017 we launched Wriggle Jr. to provide similar products and services to primary schools. I recently started a new role (School Development Director) responsible for the sales and marketing functions for our primary and post primary teams. It’s an exciting time!
 
Do you think parents play a significant role in supporting the digital education of their children? What can they do to support it better?
I think arguably, parents play the most important role in supporting the digital education of their children. It can be a daunting prospect for parents when it comes to the utilisation of technology in school, especially when it’s a personalised device that they bring home with them every day. However, we work closely with parents to provide the reassurances that their sons and daughters aren’t getting access to social media, games or inappropriate content on their devices because we have locked all of those elements down.
We also provide training for parents to demonstrate how they can manage their children’s devices in their own homes by keeping tabs on their screen time, internet browsing history and other useful tips and tricks. It will always be a challenge to stay ahead of the curve but as parents, we need to involve ourselves in our children’s education, technology or no technology.
 
What exactly is the Wriggle Roadcaster?
The Wriggle Roadcaster is a cutting edge 21st  century technology classroom on wheels! We repurposed it from a former library bus and have transformed it into a 21st century mobile learning classroom. It is designed to showcase to teachers and students what technology can do to support engagement and enhance teaching. Inside, the Roadcaster is kitted out with tablets, robotics, drones, coding equipment and other state of the art technological tools.
It travels around schools in Ireland, demonstrating to teachers and students at primary and secondary level how technology can be easily integrated into teaching and learning. It has been such a huge success so far and we’re trying our best to visit as many schools as possible in the months ahead.

Celebrate International Innovation Day

_DSC0210How will you be innovative for ‘International Innovation Day’ which takes place today across the globe? Simply spot a problem or issue that needs to be addressed or fixed and try to think of a solution…..and before you know it you’re innovating! Innovation Day and the art of innovating is all about imagining new, better ways of doing things. It’s about ideas and delivering more efficient processes, answers and ideas.

In December 2015, the Government launched plan entitled Innovation 2010. Innovation has been central to securing Ireland’s economic recovery to date and has supported growth in the numbers at work with 135,000 more people in employment since 2012. Recent reports have also seen Ireland continue to improve in international innovation rankings, most recently climbing from 10th place in 2013 to 8th place in 2015 in the EU Innovation Union Scoreboard.

To build on this success and achieve the vision to become a Global Innovation Leader driving a strong sustainable economy and a better society, Ireland must continue to invest heavily in Research, development, science and technology which will all contribute to this goal to deliver on our vision focusing on excellence, talent and impact in research and development.

What Is Innovation? Whether it happens among students or young pupils in a classroom setting, or scientists in a laboratory, innovation is a series of steps that begins with imagination and creativity and results in the creation of something new, progressive and of value for society.

One of Ireland’s greatest strengths is its people and future innovation depends on people. Some of the things that must be done immediately at all levels is greater encouragement , from encouraging greater engagement with science, technology, engineering and mathematics at primary level to ensuring the necessary supports for researchers at postdoctoral and Principal Investigator levels.

As well as supporting the full continuum of talent development in order to ensure that the quantity and quality of trained people is sufficient, we also must support the full continuum of research, from frontier research at and beyond the frontiers of current understanding, to the creation and development of research-informed innovative products, processes and services. Support for excellent research across all disciplines (including arts, humanities and the social sciences as well as science, technology, engineering and maths) is essential, as is the provision of adequate research infrastructure to ensure that our researchers have access to the best possible equipment and facilities.

We all have the ability to be innovative – Think about some simple ways that you can do so today!