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’

 

Athlone Technology Company Set to inspire Next Generation

Athlone based technology company 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.

Mersus Technologies will have a stand at the event, providing information for all attendees and there will be the opportunity to experience a Virtual cleanroom, the kind that industry will be rolling out globally in the future. Mersus has developed the AVATAR ACADEMY™  which is an immersive Virtual Reality platform that mirrors real-world environments and scenarios so precisely it can be used to train workers in the latest advanced manufacturing processes. This has been achieved through the combination of a team of traditional animation artists working hand in hand with software developers to create innovative computer-generated image media. “We’re the Walt Disney of industrial animation,” says chief executive and co-founder Geoff Allen

Geoff Allen, CEO of Mersus Technologies said,

‘We are really looking forward to attending the upcoming ‘Aspire with Abbott’ event in Longford as part of this year’s Midlands Science Festival. At Mersus Technologies we are always looking for the next generation of talented STEM candidates. Over the past seven years, Mersus has developed a world-class team from local talent right here in the Midlands. Our AVATAR ACADEMY™ virtual training platform harnesses the creative imaginations of youth in applications that are proving extremely valuable for the nation’s Life Science industry. We are confident that our form of animation can rival, in terms of attracting talent and the global success of Ireland’s indigenous entertainment-focused equivalent, over the next few years’.

TECH WEEK-TALKS AND WORKSHOPS IN OFFALY

 

Midlands Science was pleased to team up with Athlone Institute of Technology and Declan Holmes from Science Ireland recently for Tech Week 2019.

Tech Week is Ireland’s nationwide festival of technology aimed at students, parents and the public. Tech Week is made up of a range of classroom and community activities taking place across Ireland – in libraries, schools, community centres, and many other locations. These activities give students a chance to develop their interest in technology subjects, examine potential career prospects, learn new skills, be creative and, most importantly, have a lot of fun.

As part of the Midlands Tech Week celebrations, Midlands Science organised a school career presentation for the students of Gallen Community School in Ferbane, Co. Offaly. We were very fortunate to have Engineering lecturer and key speaker, Dr.Enda Fallon from AIT present to talk to students about technology fields and course.

Jackie, Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

‘We were really pleased to collaborate once again with AIT during Tech Week to deliver some very interesting talks about the world of technology to Offaly student. It is very important to demonstrate to students the vast diversity of science, engineering and technology in a practical and easy to understand manner so it was beneficial to not only have an academic representative from AIT but also to include the more fun and interactive side of science and we did this through some engaging science workshops with Declan Holmes from Science Ireland. We will actively continue to encourage students to consider the whole field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and showing them how it impacts our lives on an everyday basis during Tech Week is an ideal way to do this.’

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.

 

Electronics challenges in Co. Laois!

People of all ages enjoyed the Midlands Science Festival ‘Make Port’ workshops today in Portarlington, Co. Laois where sessions covering electronics, laser engraving and 3D printing.

 

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.

Mergon Support Technology Learning Opportunity for Castlepollard Students

Midlands Science recently collaborated with Mergon International to provide an engaging and interactive coding workshop for the first and second year students of Castlepollard Community College.

Lucy Payne, Business Development Manager from iConnect Galway ran this ‘Coding Workshop’ for pupils at Castlepollard School, on 1 June 2017. Based on the Swift Playground app using the Apple TV, students explored how to use the Swift Playgrounds app and understand where coding is used in daily life.

Aisling Nolan, General Manager of Mergon International in Castlepollard said,
‘Mergon was delighted to partner with Midlands Science as a corporate sponsor in order to deliver this innovative event to a local school. Technology has the power to transform education and as a company, Mergon is always looking for ways to help inspire learning and encourage new ways of teaching the future generation. Swift, the powerful programming language which has been designed by created Apple, is intuitive and user friendly involving touch, motion and sound.’

Swift Playgrounds is a revolutionary app for iPad that makes learning Swift interactive and fun. It requires no coding knowledge, and is perfect for students just starting out. Using puzzles to master the basics with Swift students are equipped with a powerful programming language created by Apple that is used by the professionals to build today’s most popular apps. Students take on a series of challenges and step up to more advanced playgrounds designed by Apple and other leading developers.

Mary Coyle, principal at Castlepollard Community College said,
‘We were delighted to welcome Lucy Payne of iConnect to our school recently where students had the opportunity to enjoy a really immersive lesson in ipad technology and coding. The new Technology element of the curriculum enables students in the junior cycle of post-primary education to develop their technology knowledge and life skills and to apply these in real-world situations. We are very grateful to both Mergon and Midlands Science for this opportunity as we believe that by creating a more dynamic learning environment and giving students the tools and materials they need to succeed, their technology lessons can really be brought to life.’

Notes to Editors:
For more information on Swift and how iConnect can benefit your school or business please contact Lucy on 085 873 2331.
Media Enquiries: Victoria Marsden, Marketing Manager victoria.marsden@i-connect.ie

iConnect:
iConnect is an Apple Premium Reseller and Apple Solutions Education Experts serving every type of customer, from individuals to creative freelancers to professional businesses, schools and universities.
As Apple Solutions Education Experts iConnect also serves many of the countries primary, secondary and third level institutions with the most up to date Apple Solutions for Education.
Owned by Al Mana Lifestyle Limited and part of the Al Mana Group of Companies, iConnect has stores in Henry Street, Dublin, Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, Dublin and Whitewater Shopping Centre, Newbridge. The group also acquired Stream Solutions, Cork and Screenway Limited, Galway in 2015.

Good News for Ireland’s Tech Reputation

Ireland has been chosen to lead an EU consortium looking at the future of supercomputing across Europe. The consortium will form a centre of excellence to help bring this advanced technology into wider use.

Supercomputers are the most powerful computers available. They are regularly used to make weather predictions and to model the effects of climate change.

The EU announced recently that it would invest €140 million from its Horizon 2020 science programme to develop the next generation of supercomputing technologies.

The consortium, involving 16 other institutional and 12 industrial partners from around Europe, will be chaired by Prof Luke Drury of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Source: Irish Times