Digital Midlands Science Festival 2020 a Great Success

For the first time since it was founded eight years ago, the Midlands Science Festival was last week hosted online as an immersive digital event as part of national Science Week. The core theme for Science Week 2020  which is now in its 25th year was ‘Science Week – Choosing our Future’ and this focused on how science can improve our lives in the future and in the present. This year’s jam-packed festival enabled schools, teachers, parents and people of all ages to get involved virtually and thousands of  people had the opportunity to enjoy engaging talks, interactive workshops and presentations in a whole new and innovative format.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman said,

‘Our first ever virtual festival was a great success and we were delighted through support from Science Foundation Ireland, Rethink Ireland, our wonderful event providers and a number of key partnerships to bring a large number of exciting science events to the Midlands again this year, in spite of the current pandemic. We explored everything from marine life and climate action to the science of Star Wars, from astrology and reptiles to ice cream making and lessons in sustainability. Science can help us understand what is happening and also provide us with the information to make different choices and pursue solutions in the future. This is now more important than ever. We also have made available online the DR Mindflip Ultimate Learning Experience as a game on the indie gaming site Itch and ran a number of short videos during the week with children exploring science in Irish.  People of all ages had the opportunity to join us from their homes to have a close-up lesson about a whole variety of different topics, all with a science twist.’

Science Week is a wonderful opportunity for small science enthusiasts and their families to see what’s new and innovative in the world of science and technology. It is also the perfect chance for someone who is just tipping their toe into science for the first time to participate in activities and live performances by science explorers, communicators and experts whose mission it is to educate, entertain, inform and inspire.

‘The festival is a fantastic way to really capture the imagination and show people that science can be fun. We would like to thank the many people involved this year for all their support, diligence and help in managing the delivery of this week-long event to so many people in the Midlands and beyond. As a team, we decided earlier this year to host Science Week in a virtual manner and this took a lot of additional time, training and co-operation from providers and schools. This online model was a very different way of doing things but it allowed us to continue to raise awareness and extend people’s real-world understanding of science during such a challenging time.’

In a period of increasing unease, the Midlands Science team strongly believe that it is more important than ever to continue to provide activities to continue to engage our young people, build optimism and help them to explore science and how it relates to everything in our day to day lives.

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘The Midlands Science Festival celebrated science in the Midlands in a number of different ways this year. Other key highlights included an inspiring journey into Space with Dr. Niamh Shaw, informative public talks on the ‘Science of Resilience’ and the ‘Science of Skin’ and a range of high-level, virtual career talks for secondary schools with some of our industry and academic partners, which we hope will encourage more and more students to consider science as a future course and career option. This year also included an online exploration into Viking Heritage with the National Museum of Ireland and Westmeath Heritage and a unique, interactive British Council Ireland event where we baked our way to space. I wish to thank Science Foundation Ireland, all of our partners, speakers, performers, the local media and school venues for making this all possible.’

 

 

 

Midlands Science Festival Goes Virtual

For the first time in its eight-year history, the Midlands Science Festival will be accessible from November 8th – 15th as a week-long, immersive digital event as part of national Science Week. The core theme for Science Week 2020  which is now in its 25th year is ‘Science Week – Choosing our Future’ focusing on how science can improve our lives in the future and in the present. This year’s festival offering will enable schools, teachers, parents and people of all ages to get involved virtually and it will deliver engaging talks, interactive workshops and presentations in a whole new and innovative format. In a time of increasing unease, the Midlands Science Festival team is conscious that it is more important than ever to continue to provide activities to continue to engage our young people, build optimism and help them to explore science and how it relates to everything in our day to day lives.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman said,

“ The theme this year will explore how science can help us to make positive choices that will impact the environment, our health, and our quality of life. We took the time to evaluate the situation as an organisation before deciding that a virtual festival really was the best way forward for Science Week 2020. It allows us to provide most of the events that we had already planned for our audiences, in a safe and secure manner.  This year we are inviting people to step inside a free, virtual science sphere to join top science communicators, workshop presenters, industry experts, science ambassadors and more! This pandemic has really brought an awareness to the way in which we all work, learn and consume information. We have been working diligently over the past seven months to adapt to an online model to continue to raise awareness of science and we would like to thank all of our wonderful partners and sponsors who have supported and encouraged us to do this during such a challenging time. Throughout Science Week there will be a variety of ways for you to get involved through events, social media and much more. You can also use and follow #BelieveInScience online.”

The Midlands Science Festival will this year celebrate science in the Midlands in a number of different ways. Some of the key highlights will include an inspiring journey into Space with Dr. Niamh Shaw, informative public talks on the ‘Science of Resilience’ and the ‘Science of Skin’ which will be available online and we are also really looking forward to delving into the exciting world of Star Wars with Jon Chase. We are also delighted to be providing a range of high-level, virtual career talks for secondary schools with some of our industry and academic partners, which we hope will encourage more and more students to consider science as a future course and career option.

Dr. Craig Slattery, Midland Science Chairperson, commented,

“Sadly, we have seen highly influential public figures around the world openly attempt to undermine or discredit valid scientific information to service their own agendas.  Now, more so than ever, delivering authentic, exciting and informative public science events to the people of the Midlands, young and old, is of the utmost importance.  Under normal circumstances, Midlands Science would organise over 100 face-to-face events during the Midlands Science Festival with a combined audience of over 10,000 people each year. Naturally this year is going to be very different but we are confident that the enjoyment and inspiration on offer will not be!”

This year also includes an exploration into Viking Heritage with the National Museum of Ireland and a family Discovery Day, which will see the return of some of much-loved activities such Dale Treadwell’s Dinosaur Show, Anyone 4 Science, the Exploration Dome, The Reptile Zoo, Ironman Engineering and Dr Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience.

More information including the full schedule of events, speaker line-ups, and how to register will be announced in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

Some highlights from Athlone…

The opportunity to explore the science of Chernobyl in Athlone Library, space exploration at the Rocketeers Roadshow with Simon Watt and Harry Potter science were just some of the exciting experiences which took place in Westmeath during Science Week last week.

Jackie Gorman, Director of the Midlands Science Festival said,

‘We were delighted through support from Science Foundation Ireland and a number of key partnerships to bring a number of exciting science events to the Midlands again this year. We were delighted to again be working with partners such as the local heritage offices, companies, schools and libraries. Most of the event tickets were sold in advance so it was fantastic to witness the excitement that people anticipated. As Hermione Granger said “when in doubt, go to the library !” We hope that people enjoyed the events in their local area and we are already looking forward to an even bigger Science Week in the Midlands next year.’

The festival brings sciences out into the cultural mainstream in a more accessible, creative and impactful way. It was a wonderful opportunity for science enthusiasts to see what’s new and innovative in the world of science and technology. The large public turnout again this year showed there is a great appetite for this type of regional educational event and one of the most encouraging factors was the diversity of the audiences attracted during the week.

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘The Midlands Science Festival itself aims to engage and encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to become leaders of tomorrow. It encourages experimentation and collaboration, inspiring students to solve real-world problems. We work to promote science throughout the year so keep an eye out for what we have coming next!’

 

 

Photos: Pupils from Athlone exploring the Science of Harry Potter with Anyone 4 Science in  Athlone Library during the annual Midlands Science Festival as part of Science Week 2019

Marty Jopson Show a Huge Success!

We were thrilled to have science performer and BBC One Show’s resident scientist, Marty Jopson partaking in this year’s Midlands Science Festival this week in Co. Laois. Marty presented to a large audience of pupils from Clonaslee Community College and the surrounding primary schools and was an astounding success.

Marty said,

‘Science is not an optional extra in our 21st century society as pretty much everything around us has a basis in science or engineering. My job and the work of other presenters at the Midland Science Festival is to enthuse the public and give them a look into that science, since if you don’t understand what its all about how can you really participate in our modern democratic society? That’s the serious answer, but really its all about fun. Science is just cool and interesting and that is generally what drives me to do what I do.’

Whirling into Wednesday!!

It’s Wednesday so it’s the science of water with Waterways Ireland, Life sciences career talks, distributing 1000 trees and the fantastic Science of Harry Potter workshops. There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class. As such, I don’t expect many of you to appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is potion-making !! #science #scienceweek #believeinsciende

Teamwork Tuesday!

Barry W. Fitzgerald, BW Science, author of Secret Science of Santa Claus & Secrets of Superhero Science.
photo: Bart van Overbeeke

It really is all go today across the Midlands for Science Week today! We are starting out in Tullamore for a careers talk with Jazz Pharma before heading to the library for our spectacular Foodoppi shows! Then we go across to the students in Tullamore College for some climate change science and we are really excited about that!

There is plenty happening in Laois also with Marty Jopsons ‘Invisible worlds’ show and ‘The Secrets of superhero science’ is also taking place today..Moving down to Longford we have Mary Wards’ World of Wonder;  an inter-active workshop with artists Tina Claffey and Caroline Conway exploring the life and legacy of Mary Ward, one of Ireland’s first female scientists.  And in Athlone, we ‘Travel to Chernobyl’ for a unique event which will explore the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant which took place on April 26th, 1986.

#stem #believeinscience #science week

 

Making Physics Fun!

Dr Mindflip rolled into the Midlands on Saturday for Science Week and returned again today to some very lucky students in Co. Offaly! Dr MindFlip’s Ultimate Learning Experience has been made by a team of artists, filmmakers, scriptwriters, designers and scientists who describe it as a light-hearted and educational exploration into the laws of physics and science, created specifically for Science Week and it really is a physics outreach project with a difference!

Dan Nickstrom, team memeber, said,

‘Dr Mindflips Ultimate Learning Experience is designed to teach anyone about the wonders of physics in a fun and interactive way and it was amazing to see kids (and the big kids!) in the midlands really immersing themselves in topics that are often dismissed as being too complicated or difficult for the average person on the street.’

Anyone 4 Science in the Midlands?

Christine Campbell from Anyone 4 Science has been coming to the region for the past few years during Science Week to provide a range of different fun, hands-on science, engineering and maths activities for local students of all ages. We were delighted to see Christine in the region again this week for our open Discovery day which was held in Tullamore as part of the annual Midlands Science Festival.

Christine patiently explained and demonstrated to children who came in their droves, how to make their own ice-cream. And the best part was; the eating of it afterwards. So many children told us all about the ingredients that were needed and talked about how they were going to make their own ice-cream from now on!!

#believeinscience @anyone4science

Excitement is building in Laois!

Every year we want the festival to ignite curiosity and let people discover that science and technology can offer amazing opportunities, often in ways that they may not realise. This year’s calendar of activity is bigger and better than ever. We are delighted to announce some of the key events which will take place in Laois this year including Dr Mindflip workshops, science fun with the Rediscovery Centre, exploring the archaeology of the Vikings with the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin zoo workshops, exciting science journey with Marty Jopson, the BBC One Show’s resident scientist and lots more.

Suzanne Carroll of Portlaoise Library said,

‘We are really pleased to once again be collaborating with the Midlands Science Festival team to deliver a range of exciting and innovative events in Laois during Science Week 2019. We want to continue to ensure that the library is more than just a place where people can borrow books. We want it to be a place where people can avail of free, informative talks and workshops in a friendly, community setting. The Midlands Science Festival provides plenty of opportunities for this across the region and in Laois we are looking forward to showcasing an educational outreach event from Dublin Zoo and exploring the secrets of Superhero Science in Portlaoise library but there are lots of other things happening so check out for more details on how you can celebrate science this November.’

We should try to stimulate curiosity …..

As Science Week gets underway, we have been talking to a number of Midlands people who are working in science and technology careers. This week we caught up with Colin Scally, a Tullamore native who attended one of the schools we work closely with here in the Midlands.  He is now living in London..Here is what Colin had to say…

Colin, you are originally from the Midlands and a past pupil of Tullamore College, what are you now working at?

I’ve been based over in London for the past few years and worked across a couple of different jobs and industries. Currently I’m working for a technology consultancy as a software developer and consultant. I’m helping a fintech startup to build out their product – a system to help small businesses with a range of accountancy features and finance options. It’s a great role as we get to really help bring them on a technology journey and realise their ambitions.

Can you tell us what led you into this role and a bit about your academic journey?

Honestly, I’ve followed a somewhat non-traditional route into this industry. I originally studied law, and then specialised in analytical criminology. I worked for years in cyber risk management and financial fraud analysis. But I got to the point where my role was getting closer to management consulting and I wanted something more technical. So I decided to leave my job and retrain for a few months, before taking on a role as a software developer. I don’t at all regret my previous roles, as I gained a lot of consultancy skills that I still use every day. The days of a software developer sitting all day typing with their headphones on is over – businesses want our technical knowledge but also our ability to consult and work with various stakeholders across their teams!

What are some of the more exciting science and engineering jobs that you are seeing now or you see for the future?

Always a difficult question to answer without straying into buzzword territory! In terms of technology, the whole ‘Cloud’ area is hardly novel any more, but whilst a few years ago it was still thought of as hype, today it’s a core part of engineering for more and more businesses. The big providers (AWS, Azure, GCP) are evolving their platforms and delivering new services at a frightening rate, meaning there is a growing demand in cloud systems engineering.

There’s also a lot of talk about the potential in robotics, much of which is still firmly in the hype cycle! But I would expect more and more practical applications of robotics to emerge in the near future, and this will call for people with a range of technical and scientific skills from materials science and plastics, to software development, to AI and cognitive science.

Why are events like the Midlands Science Festival so vital for encouraging young people to consider a future in a science career?


Personally, when I was still in school I struggled to understand the range of careers that were out there in the various scientific fields. Schools do great work in helping with career guidance, but they can only do so much and their advice is often theoretical and focused on what to do at university. Events like Midland Science Festival can do brilliant work by making young people more aware of career paths that exist and what it is actually like to work in a scientific field. These events are also a fantastic way to allow young people to see and experience science in ways they would never get a chance to otherwise.

How can we make science more fun and engaging for young people do you think?

I think it’s absolutely key to make young people ask two questions “how does this work?” and “why does this happen?” We should try to stimulate curiosity and make young people arrive at these questions themselves, motivating them to dig deeper and look for answers. The easiest way to do this is probably to get ‘hands-on’ with science as much as possible – show young people some of the outcomes and products of scientific application and give them the space to explore and question them.