Celebrate Science at Home this St. Patrick’s Day

As we celebrate all things Irish for St Patrick’s Day, we thought it might be interesting to think about famous people from the midlands who are associated with Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM)

Did you know that the term “electron” was invented by Offaly man George Johnstone Stoney? Stoney made significant contributions to cosmic physics and to the theory of gases. Stoney’s most important scientific work was the conception and calculation of the magnitude of the “atom of electricity”. In 1891, he proposed the term “electron” to describe the fundamental unit of electrical charge, and his contributions to research in this area laid the foundations for the eventual discovery of the particle by JJ Thompson in 1897. Next time you look up, think of Stoney as craters on the Moon and Mars are named in his honour. And keep looking up as you might see the Kuiper Belt which has a Westmeath connection!!

Kenneth Essex Edgeworth was an Irish army officer, engineer, economist and independent theoretical astronomer from Westmeath. Edgeworth is best known for proposing the existence of a disc of bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune in the 1930s. Observations later confirmed the existence of the Edgeworth Kuiper Belt in 1992. Those distant solar system bodies, including Pluto, Eris and Makemake are now grouped into the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt.

Longford inventor Richard Lovell Edgeworth was a graduate of TCD and Corpus Christi, Oxford. He created a very useful machine to measure the size of a plot of land. He was also ahead of his time and anticipated the caterpillar track with an invention he tinkered with for about 40 years but never completed. He described it as a cart that carries its own road.
Speaking of transport, if you ever get the train to Laois, you might think of William Dargan. He was born near Killeshin, Co Laois, in 1799, was the engineer on Ireland’s first railway from Dublin to Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) in 1833. He was also the engineer for the old Harcourt Street line, which the Sandyford Luas follows for much of its journey, and he designed many of its station houses. In total he constructed over 1,300 km (800 miles) of railway to important urban centres of Ireland.

The Midlands has a strong scientific heritage on which to build on today. In 1845, Birr was the home to the world’s largest telescope, today it is the site of I Lofar, the Irish station in a European wide network of state of the art radio telescopes, used to observe the universe low frequencies. John Joly of Offaly in 1857 developed the first effective radiotherapy method for treating cancer. Today, his home town of Tullamore is home to leading life sciences company Integra Lifesciences, which makes an ultransonic aspirator, a surgical device for the precise destruction of tissue that is used for tumour removal procedures and many other complex surgical operations.

The past allows us to learn from and to build for the future. This is the nature of science; we learn from each other and it’s a process of learning from mistakes and experimenting with new ideas. As we celebrate all things Irish, let’s celebrate all things Midlands including the amazing scientists from our region who looked to the stars, built bridges, explored cancer treatments and much more !!

Midlands Science is delighted to be featuring our Science at Home series with Dr. Dan Nickström during the St Patrick’s Festival 2021 and this will be showcased through St. Patrick’s Festival TV – SPF TV – a dedicated TV channel at www.stpatricksfestival.ie. Dr. Dan Nickström is a lecturer in the Experimental Physics Department at Maynooth University and a keen physics communicator. He will explain the physics behind some of the everyday objects we find at home, as well as looking at the natural world such as how bees and pollinators contribute to our ecosystem.

#SPFTV #stpatricksfestival

Exciting Science Week Space Events with Popular Science Communicator

Midlands Science is pleased to announce events that will be taking place with Dr Niamh Shaw during Science Week 2020 and the annual Midlands Science Festival. Niamh is a performer, writer & communicator with 2 degrees in engineering & a PhD in science. Passionate about igniting peoples’ curiosity she explores crossovers in STEMart & communication to share the human story of science. Niamh was the proud recipient of an award from Science Foundation Ireland for her work in communicating STEM, in recognition for all the events and talks and writing that she does about space and science.

Niamh commented,

I’m delighted to be a part of Midlands Science festival this year. My events will all be space-themed and shared with stories and videos about my own space adventures. While there are lots of facts in my events, they aren’t science shows and I’ve made them especially for people who feel that science isn’t really their cup of tea. So lots of videos, pictures and stories about space and designed for people of all ages and all interests.’

When asked about her main mission in life and about what people can expect and at Niamh’s events which will be delivered to schools in Laois and Offaly during Science Week, Niamh said,

‘I have devoted the rest of my life to get to space. I haven’t it all fully figured out just yet but that’s the best part!  I do know that in achieving this,  that I get to share stories about the adventure with all of you! I want to be the ‘normalnaut’ storyteller! And so far, I’ve shared a few of my adventures- like being on a simulated Mars mission in the middle of the desert in America, then I went to Star City in Moscow and took a zero-gravity flight to feel what microgravity (or weightlessness) feels like in the body (very strange, in short!). And other adventures too which I’ll share with you all at the festival in November.’

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

‘We have been working with Niamh since the schools returned after the first closures and have had excellent feedback on her virtual workshops into schools which the pupils have loved and teachers have said it has been a most welcome and exciting distraction for the children during these challenging times. Niamh’s book ‘Dream Big’ from Mercier Press (a memoir of sorts of the story so far in getting to space) came out in bookstores about 2 days before the first COVID restrictions hit the country. She is also planning the next future space adventure and she should have been working with the International Space University during the summer on their graduate programme in Space Humanities activities but is really looking forward to meeting lots of students during this year’s Midlands Science Festival!’

 

 

 

Science of Star Wars for Science Week 2020!

We are really excited to explore the science of Star Wars with author and scientist Jon Chase for this year’s Midlands Science Festival. How long before we get a Star Wars speeder off the ground? What exactly is the Force? How could Kylo Ren stop a blaster shot in mid-air? How could we live on a gas giant like Bespin? Nature versus nurture: How does it play out in the making of Jedi? How much would it cost to build the Death Star? This is the Science Week event you’ve been waiting for !! Suitable for Padawans and Jedi alike.

We caught up with Jon to find out more….

Jon, we are delighted that you will be participating in this year’s Midlands Science Festival. You are a passionate science communicator who is on a mission to spread the messages of science in your own unique way. What methods do you use to do this and how do you make science more exciting and interesting especially for young children?

I make workshops to engage in hands on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) as well as science shows to entertain, including plenty of humour where I can.  I also make raps about STEM as another way for people to become informed about STEM whilst being entertained at the same time. I generally try to keep things as light hearted as possible.

Was there a particular moment when you started to see the connection between music and science?

 

I suppose the closest thing to that would be when I produced a rap for NASA Astrobiology Magazine in 2008.  My lecturer at the time heard a random rap I wrote, which included references to the scientific method, He highlighted my ability to one of the producers of the magazine and next thing I knew I was producing a rap and video for them.   There was a lot of interest in what I did and from that point on, I was officially regarded as a science rapper.  I even ended up doing my dissertation on the topic of Science raps.

Using some basic principles of science, your book, ‘The Science of Star Wars’ co-written with Mark Brake,  unlocks some of the secrets behind the epic George Lucas movies. What can Star Wars fans expect from your upcoming virtual Science Week event with Midlands Science?

Lots of Science facts about the lifeforms and technologies seen within the movies, as well as an exploration of what humans currently know about space and how that impacts on the Universe of Star Wars.  Answering questions like how big is space, how old is it, could we find life out there, what’s the best space ships, how close are we to producing various Star Wars technologies?    

 You are known for cracking stereotypes about science. What can we do to make science more accessible to people and make sure people are less scared of it and more curious about it?

I think most people are curious about science but that feeling can also be linked with a fear and wariness of it. Much of science fiction has been really good at helping us to explore these fears, by helping us to imagine not only the future potential of STEM, but also the sometimes dire consequences.  It’s important to be honest with regards to science, i.e. Science is a way of thinking and doing things, and seeks to understand nature through that particular way of thinking and doing (known as the scientific method). Science does take time and effort to do, most people don’t find it easy but they work at it because they enjoy it (I liken it to playing a challenging computer game.  You stick at it because even though it’s hard, the end outcome is personally rewarding for you).  Most importantly, you don’t have to be good at science to engage with what it reveals about the world.  You just have to find the access point that works for the person, whether it be formal education, shows, movies, magazines, workshops, raps, computer games or whatever.

You have a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and a BSc in Science and Science Fiction. What would you say to a young person who is considering a career in science but might have been discouraged about it for some reason along the way?

Find different ways to surround yourself with science. In particular, think about the things that inspire you most about STEM.  Is it the future possibilities or its ability to solve real world problems now, do you like to know how everything works or are you fond of doing experiments and testing ideas?  We’re fortunate nowadays in that we can access information about all aspects of STEM via the internet, with people providing loads of different ways to engage with it.  Seek out the STEM messages and activities that inspire you and use that inspiration to motivate you through the various challenges you might encounter.  Remember, just like a computer game, you’ll embark on a journey that will be frustrating at times but personally rewarding overall as you overcome challenges one step at a time.

 

 

Careers Advice for Kilbeggan Students with PM Group

Midlands Science is proud to deliver career talks to as many schools as possible in the Midlands to demonstrate in a hands on way why a career in science, technology, engineering or maths is a good choice. We were pleased to welcome Mick Lynam from PM Group to speak to students in Kilbeggan during Science Week. PM Group manage the design, construction and commissioning of high-tech facilities for the world’s leading pharma, food, data centre and med tech companies.

Mick Lynam, Director of Project Delivery at PM Group said,

‘PM Group was delighted to recently team up with local development company, Midlands Science to help inspire Midlands students and hopefully build enthusiasm in them to consider science and engineering as possible future subject choices. Engineers in particular are in high demand currently and we are seeing plenty of new job opportunities for graduates within the engineering sector but the skills shortages continue. Therefore, we must all work together to build awareness and promote the industry and increase the understanding about the important need for engineers in Ireland today and into the future.’

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

‘We are really grateful to PM Group and all of our partners and mentors from life sciences organisations and technology companies, as well as from research centres and academia for their time and guidance on careers in these areas. Our career talks are aimed at Transition Year students, with a view to encouraging them to keep on STEM subjects, but are also available for Senior Cycle students who are still unsure about third level options and preferences.’

Google workshops a great success!

We were delighted to run a number of Google CS first taster workshops again during this year’s festival across the region and these workshops were based on real world themes aiming to engage students of varying interests – Storytelling, Fashion & Design, Sports, Animation , Art, Music & Sound, Game Design, Friends and Social Media. With the help of their teachers, students availed of the google online CS Education to develop their Computer Science skills.

Claire Conneely of Google’s Computer Science Education team (EMEA) said,

‘Google is pleased to once again collaborate with Midlands Science to provide computer science outreach for young people during Science Week 2019. Cultivating a future workforce that is ready for the fast pace and many changing faces of technology today requires a commitment from businesses in this industry to help prepare the next generation with the right technical skills, to get them excited about Computer Science and encourage more young people to pursue a career in this field.’

Thank You!

Collaboration with our valued partners is at the heart of everything we do.

We would like to express our thanks once again to our sponsor Integra LifeSciences for their wonderful support of local science at this weekend’s Discovery Day and also a sincere word of thanks to Pauline McKenna of the Sacred Heart School in Tullamore for the use of the school’s fantastic facilities. It was an enormous help and we couldn’t have done it without you and all of the people who helped out to make the Discovery day a great success.

#believeinscience.

Picking up The Naughton Foundation Award

We were delighted to recently receive an award from The Naughton Foundation at Trinity College Dublin. This award was presented to Midlands Science by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, TD. Dr Craig Slattery, Chairperson of Midlands Science commented “support from The Naughton Foundation will assist Midlands Science in the delivery of a number of STEM outreach activities in the midlands and we look forward to working with them. We are most grateful to them for their strong interest in STEM education and skills in the region.”

The Naughton Foundation was established by Martin and Carmel Naughton in 1994. It is a private family foundation and its goal is to support worthwhile causes in the arts and education. Midlands Science undertakes a range of outreach activities throughout the year in the midlands promoting science, technology, engineering and maths through school workshops, public events and a regional science festival. It is supported by Science Foundation Ireland, The Ireland Funds, The Social Innovation Fund of Ireland and a range of project partners. It is managed by a voluntary board of trustees which includes representatives from industry, education and research.

#science #believeinscience #stem #skills #education #philanthrophy

Physical Activity for Life…AIT STEM Talk for Longford Students

We were delighted to welcome Mairead Cantwell, a clinical exercise physiologist to Mean Scoil Mhuire in Longford recently where she delivered an insightful and informative presentation to students as part of our STEM career talks in association with AIT.

Mairead works as  as an assistant lecturer in sport and exercise science at AIT. Clinical exercise physiology focuses on the promotion and prescription of physical activity to individuals living with different chronic conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, cancer).

Her presentation focused on the benefits of physical activity for health throughout the life, and in the context of clinical conditions. She also discussed potential routes into careers in clinical exercise physiology.

 

The younger we reach students the better!

Gas Networks Ireland celebrate Engineer’s Week.
Picture by Shane O’Neill Photography.

For our festival 2017 we have partnered with a number of extremely supportive organisations including Gas Networks Ireland to create opportunities which aim to excite students about science. Gas Networks Ireland is committed to responsible business practice, ensuring that environmental, ethical and social principles are at the core of its business decisions and are key to its business strategy. We are most grateful for the support and enthusiasm our partners and sponsors provide to enable us to spread the science message and without their help our festival would not be possible. We caught up with Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for Gas Networks Ireland, Christina van der Kamp for a chat earlier this week..

Christina, we are delighted to be partnering with Gas Networks Ireland this year to help make the Midlands Science Festival 2017 a great success. Can you tell us a little about your role in Gas Networks Ireland?

As Corporate Responsibility (CR) Manager for Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) much of my role involves working with colleagues to ensure that CR is high on the agenda right across the business. I am also responsible for all community activity for GNI. Our CR programme is wide-reaching and about so much more than simply volunteering and sponsorship! It influences many areas of our business and revolves around the five CR pillars of Community, Environment, Workplace, Marketplace and Governance.

Gas Networks Ireland holds the ‘Business Working Responsibly’ Mark for responsible and sustainable business practices. One of the first companies to be granted certification in 2013, we are still one of only 25 companies in Ireland that hold the Mark. For us, this is a clear demonstration of our commitment to CR and it’s something we’re especially proud of! Recently, we completed a three year CR strategy identifying priorities under each of the CR pillars, with the aim of further integrating CR with the strategic mission and vision of Gas Networks Ireland.

Do you have a science background?

My background is in communications, I have a degree in Media Production Management and a Masters in Science Communication. The Masters explores social issues in science and technology, and the communications and controversies surrounding them. It gave me a great grasp of the social significance of science in society and the importance of demystifying careers in science to young people.

Do Gas Networks Ireland support other STEM related educational programmes?

Education in particular has been a major focus of our community programmes to date. With Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) at the core of our business, Gas Networks Ireland delivers a programme called ‘Our Universe’ to over 5,000 primary school kids in partnership with Junior Achievement Ireland. This science education programme is delivered by volunteers from different organisations across the country annually. The purpose of the programme is to influence and encourage students to continue with science in secondary school and beyond. We also hold events on Engineers Week and exhibited at the iWish conference this year.

Recent data shows that Ireland continues to experience a skills shortage in the STEM sector. Why is it important for companies like Gas Networks Ireland 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?

As an engineering organisation, it’s hugely important that we support events like the Midlands Science Festival. We relish our role of encouraging the workforce of tomorrow! Events like the Midlands Science Festival and programmes like Our Universe introduce science in an informative yet appealing way and play an important part in having a positive influence on students’ perception of science. The younger we reach students the better!

New Board Member for Midlands Science

Midlands Science is pleased to announce the appointment of the Assistant Secretary General of the Irish Association of Community & Comprehensive Schools, Mr. John Irwin, to its Board of Directors.
Martin Cronin, Chairperson of Midlands Science commented,
‘John joins a voluntary Board dedicated to ensuring that the importance of science education and careers continues to be highlighted here in the Midlands. John is a very valuable addition to our Board and I look forward to working with him as we continue our efforts to connect to more students, teachers and parents. He brings a wealth of academic and corporate expertise and experience in education promotion to help Midlands Science activities and contribute to setting our vision for the future.’
John is an experienced secondary school teacher and former school principal and in his current role as Assistant Secretary General of the Irish Association of Community & Comprehensive Schools and in this role, he is responsible for the development and management of a network of large community schools across the country. He is particularly interested in the linkages between education, employment and local development and in his years as a teacher and school principal he was an early adopter and proponent of new and engaging ways to interest students in STEM issues.
John Irwin commented,
‘I am honoured to join the Board of Midlands Science and look forward to collaborating with fellow members on new concepts and ventures to provide even more opportunities, activities and resources for our students here in this region. Together, we will continue our efforts to build the next generation of local scientists and engineers in the most innovative and dynamic ways possible.’
Midlands Science has recently launched its new website which will provide details of upcoming science and technology education and promotional events taking place across the region. The website can be accessed at www.midlandsscience.ie