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!

Making Sense of Science Through Fun!

scoil mhuire boat projectDuring the course of last year, we undertook some simple surveys to find out what Midlands students thought about science, the teaching of it and the subject itself. A large number of responses indicated that science could definitely be more fun in the classroom and that this should start from an early age.

One student said, ‘I have loved science from a very young age and think it is so important to start encouraging pupils as early as primary school level about what an adventure it can be to explore science and all its wonders. Events such as the Midlands Science Festival ensure that children as young as five years old have the opportunity to see how certain elements of science work, but in a more fun and often lighthearted way. I dressed up as a scientist for a primary school fashion show years ago; that’s how young I was when I fell in love with science!’

The Midlands Science Festival will be heading into its fourth year in November and we will be doing some work over the next year or so to track back to those pupils who experiences their first science festival event in 2013 to see what they think of these events, to find out if they have had any impact on them and on their understanding of science and to see how they feel about learning science at school.

We know from talking to teachers that students (especially the younger ones) really learn through fun but we also know that it can depend on how much emphasis is place on science as a subject in the early years of schools. In some cases, it can be down to one very enthusiastic science teacher and in other cases the importance of science is not empahsized enough. We try to work with both ends of the scale so we aim to bring science events to the existing science enthusiasts but we are also working to ensure more and more schools avail of science activities even if it isn’t on the top of their agenda …yet!

Fionnuala Doheny, Principal of Scoil Mhuire in Tullamore commented, ‘It is our belief that once an appreciation of maths and a curiosity of science is established, often through fun activities such as maths trails, boat making or attending Midlands Science Festival events, it will stay with them forever and indeed many of our past pupils have taken up careers in the world of science and maths.’
Recently while doing some research into events planning and how we in the Midlands Science Festival team can make sure we are providing ample school based science activities that are fun and exciting we came across this really interested TED talk. It features a teacher in the United States who explains the importance of all of this and how he has worked to make science fun!

Take a look at this link and see how you can ensure young people have the opportunity to learn just how much science is all around them and just how fun it can be –

Celebrating Darwin Day!

darwinDarwin Day is a global celebration of science and reason held on or around February 12th annual as this is the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin. Darwin’s remarkable impact on biology, cosmology and the scientific process cannot be understated and he had an overwhelming hunger for truth through scientific discovery, an unwavering curiosity to discover that which was hidden and a determination to brave intellectual depths.

The International Darwin Day Foundation is a voluntary movement which, through focusing on the scientific achievements of Charles Darwin and others, serves to improve the public understanding of science and to help improve science literacy. This is very similar to what we, in the Midlands Science festival team strive to do at all times. Like our own objectives, International Darwin Day encourages interested groups and individuals throughout the world to participate in the annual celebration of Charles Darwin’s life and in doing so to become more familiar with his contribution to science. In all fairness, we owe him a lot!

His interests were vast and broad but one of his main strengths was to bring ideas from different subjects such as botany, psychology and zoology together, uniting them under his grand theories of evolution. Darwin Day is a day of celebration and cooperation for the advancement of science, education, and human well-being. How will you celebrate it?

‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’

GLOBAL MATHS EXPERT VISITS MIDLANDS SCHOOLS

jump_logoTo coincide with a number of recent Midlands science events, a selection of local schools were fortunate to have received a visit from Dr. John Mighton, founder of the Canadian based maths programme, JUMP Math. The JUMP Math model provides teaching tools that can be used by any teacher in any classroom around the world. Based on research, case studies and the results it achieves, the model is continuously evolving and thanks to local development company Atlantic Corridor in association with the programme’s main sponsor, leading multinational telecommunications company LM Ericsson, there are now seven participating schools across the Midlands region.

JUMP Maths (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies), is a Canadian organization and a registered charity which champions innovative methods to stimulate enthusiasm and improve educational attainment in Mathematics. The JUMP Maths philosophy is founded on a belief that all children have the capability to perform well in Maths and its methods aim to remove common myths and psychological barriers to effective learning in this essential subject.

Deirdre Giblin, R&D Operations Manager at Ericsson commented,
“Ericsson Athlone is delighted to be involved in the Jump Maths initiative in the Midlands. We are always happy to support ways to encourage students of all ages to explore their talents and reach their full potential. We are proud of all the students that are involved in the programme and it is great to see the positive trends in the results.”

Dr. John Mighton, an author, playwright and mathematician, started a tutoring club in his apartment in 1998 after noticing that mathematics education in the school system was not unlocking the real potential of its students. He developed the first set of materials for his tutoring club and very quickly found a group of volunteers that helped build a set of materials, resources and tools that taught math in a way well-suited for the inquisitive minds of young people. Now, JUMP Math provides a set of resources to mathematics educators around the world.

CEO of Atlantic Corridor, Jackie Gorman said,
“Many students face unnecessary fears when it comes to learning Maths but the positive feedback we have had from teaching staff involved in the delivery of JUMP locally indicates that the programme is really helping to build confidence and ability.”

JUMP Math materials provide support for all ability levels, enabling teachers to build confidence amongst weaker students while still challenging those at more advanced levels, and encouraging all pupils to verbalise their thinking and problem solving skills. Studies on the effectiveness of the programme have shown major improvements in achievement levels, but also in students’ confidence and overall attitudes towards learning maths. The unique combination of careful teaching, continuous assessment and a variety of innovative approaches, enables teaching staff to raise the overall level of attainment while tailoring tutoring methods to individual student needs.

Principal of Scoil Mhuire Convent Primary School in Roscommon, Una Feeley commented,

‘The results from using JUMP Math so far have been very encouraging. A number of students have mentioned how the tools used in this programme have helped them to learn math in much less complicated way and they certainly seem to enjoy the subject more too which is so important for its success. We were so grateful to have had this recent opportunity to learn first-hand from the programme founder Dr.John Mighton himself and look forward to continuing with JUMP Math in the year ahead.’

SEEKING MIDLANDS SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS AROUND THE GLOBE

Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Mr. Jimmy Deenihan T.D. recently launched a new Local Diaspora Toolkit or practical guide for Local Authorities and local and community groups to assist in the development of strategies for local diaspora engagement. The Toolkit seeks to develop the potential for communities and counties in Ireland to reach out to their own local diasporas. It will facilitate the building of new relationships with the global Irish to benefit local and regional development and it profiles some of the best and most successful initiatives already underway throughout the country.

Earlier this year, local development company Atlantic Corridor launched a new diaspora-based framework for the midlands and in keeping with its overall strategic aims, the focus will be placed upon trying to create a two-way diaspora dialogue and build global connections within the scientific and technology community.

Speaking about the launch of this toolkit, CEO of Atlantic Corridor, Jackie Gorman said,

‘I was delighted to see Atlantic Corridor featured as a case study in the new Local Diaspora Toolkit. We are already actively engaged in forging partnerships internationally and will be increasingly focused on leveraging the growing population of expatriates who wish to connect with local development. Our primary emphasis here will be on the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and on the promotion of STEM skills, which can be used as an excellent economic development and marketing selling point for this region. This is a key focus for our work and we are pleased to note that plans are already afoot to bring Dr. Mary Guinan of the University of Nevada to Ireland next year promote the value of STEM education in local development.’

The ability to engage globally with scientists who have a connection to Ireland could represent significant potential for the work Atlantic Corridor is already trying to do in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, NUI, Maynooth and other academic and corporate partners in the Midlands region.

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘Irish people are making vast ongoing contributions in all fields of science, technology, engineering and maths around the world and as the positive messages about Ireland’s economic recovery spreads internationally, we are working to source STEM professionals with a Midlands connection. We want to drive and foster their desire to make a difference back home and our plan is to facilitate introductions that can draw upon their experience and expertise in a more coordinated way that will benefit skills and research in the region. Our aim is to grow our network of scientists in order to be able to facilitate discussion and improve the quality and content of events that we roll out throughout the year such as the successful Midlands Science Festival and our range of programmes in schools and public events. The Midlands has a rich heritage in STEM through mathematicians such as Gerald Gardner and astronomers such as Kenneth Edgeworth, who was actually the first person to propose that Pluto wasn’t a planet. Great discoveries have come from the Midlands in the past and this past provides a firm basis from which to market and grow development in the region now and in the future, through skills and education.’

If successful, Atlantic Corridor would like to see members of this group becoming mentors to Irish students and also promoters of the achievements of Irish and Midlands scientists globally by contributing to skills, education outreach and research links in the region. If you have an interest in being involved in the development of this network, please get on touch by phoning 05793 23902 or emailing jgorman@atlanticcorridor.ie

Atlantic Corridor Case Study Features in Government Diaspora Toolkit

mary GThis week, Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Mr. Jimmy Deenihan T.D. launched a new Local Diaspora Toolkit or practical guide for Local Authorities and local and community groups to assist in the development of strategies for local diaspora engagement.

Commissioned by Minister Deenihan and developed by Professor Liam Kennedy and Dr. Madeleine Lyes of the UCD Clinton Institute, the Toolkit seeks to develop the potential for communities and counties in Ireland to reach out to their own local diasporas.
It will facilitate the building of new relationships with the global Irish to benefit local and regional development and it profiles some of the best and most successful initiatives already underway throughout the country.

Speaking about the launch of this toolkit, CEO of Atlantic Corridor, Jackie Gorman said,

‘I was delighted to see Atlantic Corridor featured as a case study in the new Local Diaspora Toolkit. We are already actively engaged in forging partnerships internationally and will be increasingly focused on leveraging the growing population of expatriates to effectively promote economic development in the Midlands and indeed nationally.

Our primary emphasis here will be on the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and on the promotion of STEM skills, which can be used as an excellent economic development and marketing selling point for this region. This is a key focus for our programme area of work and we are pleased to note that plans are already afoot to bring Dr. Mary Guinan of the University of Nevada to Ireland next year promote the value of STEM education in local development.’

The full toolkit can be viewed below:

http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/News/Government_Press_Releases/Local_Diaspora_Toolkit.pdf

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!

https://m.soundcloud.com/midlands103official/did-you-know-that-eating-chocolate-could-reduce-your-blood-pressure

That’s it for 2015!

science of choc prof pic 4We would like to thank each and everyone who attended one of our many Midlands Science Festival events either as a speaker, performer or spectator. We would like to thank Science Foundation Ireland and all of our other sponsors and partners, volunteers, schools, venue providers, media and everyone who helped to make this year our biggest festival yet.

That’s it for this year from ourselves and Curious Kim for now but don’t forget that science is all around us, it can be fun and exciting as well as educational and informative and so essential!

We have enjoyed every minute and hope you have too!

Psychology, sweet treats and Science for Breakfast!

Chco event 1 chco event 2Today we hosted a Science Week business breakfast in the Sheraton Hotel in Athlone where members of the business community and the public had the opportunity to hear from two corporate speakers, Mr. Traoloch Collins, Managing Director of Athlone based multinational, Ericsson and Westmeath native, Mr. Feargal O’Rourke, Managing Partner of PwC Ireland. They talked about the importance of STEM skills for the future of Irish society and the economy.

Then it was over to Kilbeggan to sample some delicious handmade chocolate and learn all about the science of one of our favourite treats with toxicologist and Offaly native, Dr Craig Slattery! We had more career talks, more Reptile Zoo school visits, marine life workshops and we were delighted to welcome back Famelab to Mountmellick library where students learned about science communication and were informed and entertained by a number of science experts in a fun and engaging way.

We are also delighted to host a free public event in Athlone Little Theatre tonight  – The Mind, The Body, The Universe. At this event we will hear from experts from the world of medicine, psychology and astronomy.

We had sincerely hoped to brave the weather tomorrow for an ecology walk and an evening of stargazing to finish off a wonderful festival but the forecast is just too bad so both events have to be postponed but please be patient with us and we will rearrange for them to take place as soon as possible!

Chocolate Dreams..

chocolate image 1We are hugely excited about visiting a wonderful local business, ‘Kilbeggan Handmade Chocolate’  tomorrow when our favourite pharmacologist and toxicologist Dr Craig Slattery will come to the Midlands to talk about what we consider two very important things; coffee and chocolate ..here’s an article he penned for the Journal to give you a taster..

http://www.thejournal.ie/science-of-coffee-and-chocolate-2413259-Nov2015/