These are a few of our favourite things!

Great news that friend to the Midlands Science Festival, Dr Craig Slattery is returning this year to talk about all things science including one very interesting and salivating talk on chocolate and the science behind it.

Last year we enjoyed a fun filled event at Kilbeggan Handmade Chocolate where Craig explained just how chocolate is made and the effect it has on our bodies. This year Craig will be visiting a number of schools to talk chocolate, energy drinks and more about the science behind lots of interesting stuff!

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!


FameLab is Back!

famelab-nov-10We are delighted to say that FameLab alumni will be returning to the Midlands again this year to deliver rapid-fire science talks on various aspects of our future.

Through an interactive & lively event students will partake in drama, art and comedy on what they envision the future to hold.  Alumni from the global science communication project, FameLab, will be on hand to provide direction and encouragement to budding young scientists. Remember, the future is what you choose it to be.

Happy Maths Week!

scoil-mhuire-ipads-projectWe hope you all enjoyed Maths Week 2016! It is never too early to start teaching maths to young children. There are lots of fun and creative ways to start from as early an age as possible..
This week schools all around Ireland are getting involved in group problem solving activities, maths trails and lots of other things to promote a better awareness, appreciation and understanding of maths. You can do your own activities at home and sometimes keeping it simple is best. Use lego, playing cards, dice or even something like a pizza to teach division. The possibilities are endless. Happy Maths Week!

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.


Photo: Dr.Craig Slattery and Jackie Gorman


The Midlands Science Festival will be taking place across the region for all ages from November 13th-20th and promises a packed programme with over 120 innovative and hands-on events.

Jackie Gorman, Director of Midlands Science Festival said,
‘We are currently updating our website to include all activities but one public event which we are really looking forward to this year is all about exploring the science of sleep – insomnia, sleep disorders, baby sleeping routinues, sleep deprivation and much more! We all need our sleep and many people struggle with periods of insomina so come along to this free event which will explore how we can improve the quality a good night’s rest.’

This event which takes place in the Little Theatre in Athlone on the night of November 18th promises a highly informative evening with plenty of discussion and question time. Dr. Craig Slattery, a science communicator and Specialist Lecturer at University College Dublin who is originally from the region Craig will address the audience as will Dr Silke Ryan, Consultant in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at St. Vincent’s University Hospital and Research Fellow at UCD.

For further information, please contact: Jackie Gorman, 05793 23902

Great News for Irish Science!

Science Foundation Ireland funds research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to assist the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. We are delighted to share this news today.



A month to go!

We are really on the final countdown now with just around four weeks to go until this years Midlands Science Festival kicks off across the region with a bang!

We look forward to children’s workshops on kite flying, home made volcanoes, marine life, reptiles and water safety and we have a whole host of careers talks lined up with speakers from UCD, NUI Maynooth, Royal College of Surgeons, TCD and Athlone Institute of Technology to name a few! Other highlights include a skills networking breakfast, a public event on the science of sleep, science yarnbombing, birdwatching, superfoods, space exploration and much, much more!

We want to say a massive thank you to all of our partners, festival supporters/followers, speakers, presenters and partaking schools. This festival could not take place without you and we are most grateful to you for helping us spread the message that science is everywhere! Not long to go now!

Bringing Science to Yarnbombing!

We are super excited about this one. Its quirky, different and brand new to this year’s festival but of course has a science twist. We caught up with Nina to find out more!
Yarnbombing is thought to have originated in the US but knitters are now beginning to give Irish streets a makeover..using wool! Can you tell us what is yarn bombing?
Yarnbombing (also known as “urban knitting” or “guerrilla knitting”) is a form of street art whereby items such as street furniture (public seating, bins etc.) are covered with items made of yarn. The items can be crocheted, knitted, felted or whatever. It is temporary and fleeting in nature and usually installed secretly.
Where are you based and what type of events do you get involved in?
We are based in Mountmellick, Co. Laois. Our town has a long history of textiles and is famous for Mountmellick Embroidery. We believe that our heritage has inspired our love of all things textile. There are many crocheters, knitters, embroiderers and crafters in our town. Our group has been involved in many collaborations. The highlight so far this year was having designed and created a garden for Bloom in the Park. We were approached by the Bloom organisers to submit a design after they saw a piece about us on RTE’s Nationwide. Our design was accepted into this prestigious festival and it was a massive honour for us and the town. 
What will you be doing during Science Week?
During Science Week, we will be creating common viruses and some body parts from yarn (knitted and crocheted) so that children can see, feel and touch these often mysterious germs and get to see their structure and shape in a fun (and non-contagious!) way.
Why is it important to get involved in local activities like the Midlands Science Festival?
We believe that anything that inspires children to investigate the world around them, question why things work as they do, wonder why a ball bounces or how a flower blooms, is of the utmost importance. The minds of children are like sponges and immersing them in the wonderful world of science at a young age is the perfect opportunity to influence and impress them. If our yarny bits give the impetus to one or two of them to take up knitting or crochet as a hobby, all the better! From a scientific point of view, these hobbies are good for their creativity, their fine motor and mathematical skills. It’s a win-win!
Can anybody participate in what you do?
Yes. We meet once a week (Monday nights at 7:30pm) in Mountmellick Community Arts Centre, Parnell Street Mountmellick. We welcome beginners, improvers or experts. Whether you knit, crochet, work with felt or would like to learn a little, come and join us. We see ourselves primarily as a community group. Our aims are not self-serving. We do what we do to put a smile on peoples’ faces. Check out our Facebook page if you need any further information or wish to get in touch with us:

Mixing a little Science with some Heritage!

We are delighted to be working with friend to the Midlands Science festival, Catherine Casey who is Heritage Officer for Laois County Council and fellow science enthusiast!

Catherine, you are the Heritage Officer for Laois County Council and friend to the Midlands Science you have a science background?

Yes, I studied Science in UCD, graduating with a degree in Zoology. I went on the study Ecology in more detail and graduated with a Master of Science degree from Durham University in the UK in 1992.

Can you tell us a little bit about your role and the path you took to get there?

The Heritage Officer role is very diverse, covering all aspects of Ireland’s built, natural and cultural heritage, so everything from archaeology to wildlife! The role is supported by the national Heritage Council, based in Kilkenny, and I am lucky to be part of a great network of Local Authority Heritage Officers covering most counties in Ireland.

It was a steep learning curve for me moving into this role in 2003, and I sill learn something new every single day. Before starting with Laois County Council I worked with BirdWatch Ireland for over 10 years, first as a fieldworker on the Corncrake conservation programme, and later focussing more on conservation policy and advocacy, mostly around Ireland’s threatened farmland birds. Wildlife is a big part of the Heritage Officer role, but only one part of it, and I have relied very much on the support of the Heritage Council and colleagues from other diverse backgrounds to help me develop the new skills I needed for this role.

What is the best thing about your job?

It’s incredibly rewarding to work closely with communities and committed local volunteers who care so much about their heritage and give up so much of their time to enhance their own local area. I feel very lucky to be in a position to work with such dedicated and enthusiastic people.

Is public engagement an important part of your work and if so, why?

Yes it’s central to the role of Heritage Officer, because agencies and local authorities can only achieve so much, we need to harness to love and appreciation that all local people have for their heritage, and to ensure that it is passed on to future generations.

There’s a quote I love from a forester from Senegal called Baba Dioum: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.” That sums it up really.

Why are events like the Midlands Science Festival so important?

While we work year-round to enhance awareness, concentrated events like Science Week and Heritage Week are a great opportunity to reach a much larger audience, to be part of a national event and to achieve greater coverage in the media. I think as a result of a greater background level of awareness, families may try out events during Science Week that they might not otherwise know about or make time for. And one event can be the start of the awakening of a love for science in a young person, and who knows where that might lead.

How would you encourage more young people to consider a career in science?

That’s a tough one! I might go against the grain and say start with what you love, and what interests you. None of us really knows what career opportunities lie ahead when we chose a course of study – the role of Heritage Officer didn’t even exist when I started college, and careers in conservation we few and far between in this country. But choosing something I loved to study, led me to a career I love, and that fills me with enthusiasm every day. Who could ask for more than that?