Science Week 2021 Success!

Midlands Science was delighted to recently present a full week of free interactive science and exploration as part of national Science Week. With plenty of virtual events ranging from entertaining animal workshops with Dublin Zoo and the National Reptile Zoo to informative public talks on subjects such as ‘Joint Health’ and the ‘Science of Chocolate.’ It was therefore no surprise that thousands of people attended this year. Most events were all held on a digital platform this year due to the ongoing pandemic, but the positive part of that was that more people from all over Ireland and not just the Midlands, were able to access activities than ever before.

Jackie Gorman, Director of the Midlands Science Festival commented,

‘I’m delighted at the success of our ninth Midlands Science Festival, which as promised was event bigger and better than the one we ran last year during Covid19 times. It was wonderful to see so many schools registering for workshops which all pupils could access, as previously these events may only been available for a few classes. Organising such a largescale event online is certainly a challenge, but one we have really enjoyed and I wish to thank Science Foundation Ireland, all of our partners, speakers, performers and sponsors once again for making this all possible.’

It was great to see audience of all ages, ranging from school pupils and teenagers to highly respected science experts, communicators participating this year. The festival is a fantastic way to really capture the imagination and show people that science can be fun. A large number of Midlands students also had the opportunity to avail of some high-level careers advice from companies such as 3M, Irish Manufacturing Research, Cpl Recruitment, Accenture, IPCC, The Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland and many others this Science Week.

Royal Society of Chemistry Education Coordinator, Ireland Dr John O Donoghue, spoke about the online event exploring ‘Sugar and spice and everything science – the Science of chocolate’ where scientists Christine Campbell and Craig Slattery explored everything from why we like the taste of some chocolates more than others to creating the perfect chocolate sauce. This event which was a huge hit with schools and families alike during Science Week.

Dr John O Donoghue said,

“It’s fantastic to see more chemistry during science week, especially something so accessible to lots of different audiences like the Science of Chocolate. The video is very professional and engaging, we’d love to see more initiatives like this in the future!

Midlands Science was also delighted to partner with Bord na Móna for this year’s festival in providing a guided walk and talk at Lough Boora Discovery Park in Co. Offaly. At this event, Bord na Móna safely hosted a number of young pupils from Kilcormac and provided an overview of the ecological, environmental and cultural value of raised bogs while also focusing on the biodiversity features of interest available at the Lough Bora Discovery Park.

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘We have been overwhelmed by the level of goodwill from local media, our providers and many other organisations and individuals throughout the region. The large public turnout shows the appetite for this type of online event and after another successful year, we can hopefully look forward to bringing the Midlands Science Festival back to this region again.’

The virtual Discovery Day which was supported by Integra LifeSciences drew an audience of thousands of young people nationwide and included the Exploration Dome, the Reptile Zoo, Anyone 4 Science, Dale Treadwell’s Dinosaur Show, Anyone4Science and more. People of all ages had the opportunity to explore the night’s sky and learn about the science is Superheroes as well as meeting some very interesting reptiles and dinosaurs and this was all done online. Science Week is a wonderful opportunity for young science enthusiasts and their families to see what’s new and innovative in the world of science and technology.

Sinead Harten of Boher School in Co. Offaly said,

‘We were delighted to work with Midlands Science to ensure that our pupils had the opportunity to avail of events for Science Week and this has been a real treat for them after this past year and a half. It is extremely important that schools provide as many young people as possible with inspiring experiences of science and to encourage them to consider science as a subject choice when they are older. The workshops that are run by Midlands Science extend our pupils’ understanding of day to day science but also provide an opportunity for creativity and learning which is what science should be all about, especially for younger children.’

 

 

 

Inspirational Careers Advice for Science Week

The Midlands Science Festival has hosted a large number of science and technology career talks throughout the week in partnership with a number of companies such as Accenture, Arup, Energia, IMR and 3M with topics ranging environmental science to science jobs of the future, toxicology and climate change.

We would like to thank all of the  speakers who came to the region (virtually this year) to deliver these high value presentations to students. It is fantastic to see how science can be brought to life when someone new and inspiring comes in to the classroom and tells a science s tory from a different perspective.

We were delighted to see hands up after every talk and lots of questions. Thanks again to all who participated and to the regional schools for hosting. #BelieveInScience

Celebrating the Diversity of Science

We were delighted to receive so many of your photos during Science Week. They really showcased just how wide and varied science actually is and it is wonderful to see that despite most of this year’s events remaining online, students from all over the Midlands and beyond still got to celebrate and explore science in a myriad of ways! We still have more to come with experiments from Anyone4Science, Career talks, Dinosaur science, Marine life exploration and lots more this Science Week!

One teacher commented: ‘Science is a very important subject in our school and we are always looking for fun and interactive ways to bring science to life for the pupils here. Through working with Midlands Science to host these workshops in school, we hope to foster an interest in science and technology at an early age so that when it comes to picking subjects in the later years, the children will know that science is multi-faceted and such a big part of daily life. We would like to thank Midlands Science for continuing to provide plenty of fun activities online during these challenging Covid19 times and we look forward to more science fun in the future.’

 

 

Taking Science Outside with Bord na Móna

Midlands Science was delighted to partner with Bord na Móna for this year’s annual Midlands Science Festival in providing a guided walk and talk at Lough Boora Discovery Park in Co. Offaly.

At this event, Bord na Móna safely hosted a number of young pupils from Kilcormac and provided an overview of the ecological, environmental and cultural value of raised bogs while also focusing on the biodiversity features of interest available at the Lough Bora Discovery Park. This event was part of national Science Week, supported by Science Foundation Ireland and was a great opportunity to host an in-person event due to the fact that it could be held outside in nature.

Nature is all around us and it is packed with possibilities for children to investigate and explore. Children need time to discover the outdoors and our outdoor spaces have become more important than ever over the past eighteen months as our hunger for solace and a connection with nature has dramatically increased.

Pat Sammon, External Affairs Manager, Bord na Móna said, ‘It was wonderful to play a part in this year’s Science Week in the Midlands and to see young people out enjoying the fantastic amenities and breathtaking landscapes of Lough Boora. Bord na Móna is committed to promoting awareness and education on biodiversity in schools and in communities and to protecting and preserving our heritage and environment for future generations to enjoy. We are really happy to support events which help to promote the importance of science education to our local young people and we hope that it has inspired some of them to think about science in a different way when it comes to making future subject choices at secondary level.’

Jackie Gorman, Director of the Midlands Science Festival said, ‘The Midlands Science Festival is all about taking science out of the lab and in to places like libraries, theatres and outdoors in order to provide diverse ways for people of all ages to explore the world around them and to learn something new. Most of our festival has been run online this year due to the ongoing pandemic, so we were delighted to team up with Bord na Móna in order to provide this fun, learning event in the great outdoors for the students of Kilcormac National School.’

There is a wide a variety of things to see and do at Lough Boora Discovery Park and it is such a family friendly environment with a host of free activities for all ages. If you haven’t already visited, it is definitely a place to add to your list for any time of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something for Everyone this Science Week!

In addition to the many events being run in schools on a digital platform for this year’s Science Week which is run nationally by Science Foundation Ireland, we are also providing a vast number of online activities and experiences for the public to book and view virtually either in school or at home here in the Midlands region.

‘Sea and Sky’ is a virtual event which will see Simon Berrow of Irish Whale & Dolphin Group & Brian McCafferty of Birdwatch Ireland discussing biodiversity in Ireland, the science of conservation and what we can all learn from the world around it and how to care for it. You can also join flooding expert Dr Rolf Hut of Delft University of Technology to discuss the his tory and science of flooding and what we can do to manage flooding in a responsible way. This discussion, High Water – the Science of Flooding, is part of a series of events for Science Week with guest festival cura tor Dr Barry Fitzgerald of TU Eindhoven.

Don’t forget we also have our Science Week Book Club running this year as part of the festival and if you want a scientist to join your book club meeting for a discussion on the issues raised, please let us know and we will try to arrange that. Keep an eye on our website and social media for associated competitions for book clubs.

Jackie Gorman, Midlands Science CEO said, ‘There will be an exciting range of new events online this year with a promise of something for all age groups but we will also bring back some of the most popular sessions from last year with the overall aim of inspiring, educating and entertaining through science! We are also focusing on workshops which will hopefully help young people around the Midlands develop an interest in STEM subjects beyond the confines of the curriculum and increase their awareness of potential careers in those areas.’

Visit the magical, scientific world of WandaVision with Superhero Scientist Barry Fitzgerald! In early 2020, the Disney+ series WandaVision arrived to much-deserved adulation. Wanda’s world is built on puzzlement and magic and there’s a lot of science to explore here. Check out www.midlandsscience.ie for more details and booking information and join us to celebrate science this November across the Midlands.

 

 

 

 

I Like to Move It!

‘I Like to Move it’ is a unique online event exploring the science of joint health with Angela Camon, advanced rheumatology nurse practitioner and Dr Craig Slattery of UCD. This event will explore everything from the science of arthritis to the science of pain management and is part of national Science Week, supported by Science Foundation Ireland.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman commented, ‘According to statistics published by Arthritis Ireland, one million people in Ireland, including many children, are living with arthritis. There is therefore a very strong chance that we all personally know other people who are suffering with this condition. Unfortunately, there is so much more to arthritis than just the actual joint pain itself. People of all ages are also struggling with managing the associated fatigue, stiffness, inflammation and the effects that joint pain can have on their mental health.’

Society is also undoubtedly affected by arthritis, which is often classed as an invisible disease and is the cause of many people being unable to attend work due to ongoing pain issues. However, with the right quality of care, advice, understanding and in some cases, lifestyle changes, many people are more in control of the effects of arthritis and can still lead full lives.

Jackie Gorman continued, ‘Everyday tasks can become frustratingly difficult for people with arthritis. We hope that this event, which will explore ways to better manage your joint health will help people who are living with pain and we look forward to hearing from advanced rheumatology nurse practitioner, Angela Camon, on how people can take an active role in their pain management for a better day to day quality of life.’

In Conversation with Dr. Barry Fitzgerald – Midlands Science Festival Curator

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

We were delighted to recently catch up with Dr. Barry Fitzgerald in advance of the upcoming Midlands Science Festival to chat about his role as festival curator. Barry has been providing innovative workshops for the festival for the past few years and this year, he has played a big part in co-curating the week-long event..

Can you tell us about your role in co-curating this years’ Midlands Science festival Barry. In what way does your experience add value as a science festival curator? 

When I was asked to co-curate the Midlands Science Week Festival for 2021, I jumped at the opportunity. Since 2015, I’ve been presenting workshops at schools and science festivals for Science Week Ireland. It’s one of my busiest weeks, and a great opportunity to meet so many students, teachers, and members of the general public.

When I meet these audiences, I have two main aims; to share inspiring s tories about incredible scientific research, and to listen. After an event, I thoroughly enjoy chatting with audiences about their hopes, their dreams, and their thoughts about science and what it means to their lives.

These conversations provide me with ideas for content for subsequent events and workshops, but as I traditionally work alone when it comes to science communication events, it’s difficult to follow through with all of these ideas.

Co-curating the Midlands Science Week Festival 2021 is the ideal platform for me to complement the already outstanding line-up of the annual program with new events and formats that have been inspired by my previous Science Week experiences.

 

What can viewers expect to encounter when the festival launches on 6th November? 

The festival has something for everyone. It all begins with the Open Day on Saturday November 6th with a stimulating program featuring dinosaurs, superheroes, galaxies, and lots more. Then starting on Monday November 8th we’ve got a dedicated school program in conjunction to evening events for all tastes.

We’ve got a great animated series “The Wonders of the Body” that will profile some of the organs of the human body. Then there’s the “Science of Running”, an event that I’ll be hosting with very special guest – Keith Whyte, the Irish record holder for the 100 km ultramarathon. And in a talk related to the running event and running health, we’ve got the event “I Like To Move It” that will explore the science of joint health.

And there’s so much more. There’s “The Science of WandaVision” – the popular MCU superhero series that captivated audiences at the start of this year, there’s an event about flooding science, and we’re also going to exploring the science of chocolate. Unfortunately, we won’t be giving out free chocolate samples with the last talk, which is a pity – I was hoping to get some myself!

It’s a week of inspiring talks with science very much at the foundation of all events, and what’s great is that there is so much diversity in the science covered in the events. Get ready to learn. Get ready to be inspired. Get ready for science!

How have preparations for this year’s festival been impacted by COVID-19?

 Of course, COVID-19 has impacted preparations for this year’s festival. With the virus still very much present in society, we had to ensure that the program delivered enthralling science, while at the same time keeping the wellbeing and health of our audiences as the highest priority.

As a result, all events will take place online, either live or via pre-recorded videos that will premiere at specific times during the week.

Science has played a key role in helping to manage and contain the spread of the virus, and with the emergence of vaccinations we now have the medical tools to protect society at large.

It is disappointing that we won’t have live events this year, but thanks to science we are moving in the right direction. All going well, there will be live events as part of next year’s festival.

What are the benefits and challenge of running a festival of this nature online?

Over the past year, I’ve built up considerable experience with regards to presenting online. For example, for last year’s Science Week festival, I set up a home studio and presented all of my talks from my living room.

In my case, I have discovered that certain content works well online, better than it would for traditional in-person presentations.

In my opinion, the online environment allows demonstrators to be more dynamic with regards to how they present their content. For example, pre-recorded videos can be scripted, and you can also take your time with regards to putting the video together. When presenting online live, it’s possible to have all of your materials within easy reach, which means that you don’t have to move large cases of equipment and spend time setting up intricate experiments on site.

However, with the festival being online there are two main drawbacks. First, with a live event you are at the mercy of technology and internet connections. If the connection goes down then it could interrupt. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that isn’t the case of the festival!

A second drawback is the change in audience interaction. One of the exciting parts of any festival is meeting the audience and engaging in conversation with them during and after an event. Nevertheless, we’ll be doing our best to replicate this for the online festival. For instance, for “The Science of Running” we’ve asked the audience to send their running data in advance of the talk so that they are not just part of the audience, they are also part of the presentation themselves. Their content will create content for the presentation – it’s part of a citizen science approach. And many online platforms offer unique ways to interact with the audience such as chat functionalities. So while the live audience won’t be there, we’ll be using the technological facilities at our disposal to replicate to the best of our ability.

 

What are you most excited about in relation to this year’s events and what can people look forward to?

The Science Week 2021 program at Midlands Science is perhaps the best Science Week program yet. We’ve got content for all ages and all scientific tastes.

Personally speaking, I’m really looking forward to presenting my talks on “the Science of WandaVision” and “the Science of Running”.

But I’m a real fan of chocolate, so I’m really looking forward to “the Science of Chocolate”. Fingers crossed the recommendation is that we should eat chocolate every day – although sometime tells me that it won’t be the case!

And then there’s the brilliant animated video series “The Wonders of the Body” which will profile a number of organs in the human body. Be sure to check that out!

Finally, there’s the Discovery Day where there’ll be talks on a whole host of topics such as astronomy, superheroes, rocket physics, and dinosaurs. That promises to be a day of exciting scientific learning!

 

What else is on the horizon for you in the world of science and technology promotion?

Science Week is one of the busiest times of the year for me. In addition to curating and presenting as part of the Science Week festival for Midlands Science, I’ll also be speaking at other schools and other festival events.

At the moment I’m super-busy with a number of projects. I’m working on a new book, which I hope will be finished by the end of the year. You won’t be surprised to hear that it has a superhero connection, and it’s a book that will take a look at another side of superheroes. The book is due to come out in 2022.

In addition, I recently started a YouTube channel – The Superhero Scientist. I’ll be making lots more content for the channel over the coming weeks and months. Of course, if you have an idea for a video, be sure to let me know. I’m always happy to make videos based on recommendations from viewers.

2022 is already looking like it’ll be a busy year with lots of superhero science activities on the horizon. I’m also developing training programs for would-be science communicators, so if you’re looking for further information, be sure to let me know. I’ll also be giving talks on topics other than superheroes over the course of the year, and topics related to various topics in science and engineering. And along with Midlands Science, we have some interesting and exciting plans for next year – so watch this space!

Innovate and Inspire with Science and Technology Role Models

What does it mean to pursue a career in science or engineering?  What job opportunities are available to those with degrees in these fields? What skills do you need to have a career in science or to become an engineer? As part of this year’s Midlands Science Festival, which takes place across the region this November as part of Science Foundation Ireland’s national Science Week, a series of careers talks will take place virtually in local schools to hopefully answer some of these questions. The theme for Science Week 2021 is Creating Our Future, directly supporting the national research conversation. ‘Creating Our Future’ is a conversation between the people of Ireland, to gather your ideas on what problems you’d like research and innovation to deal with, to create a better future for all.

Volunteers for this careers initiative are from life sciences organisations, engineering and technology companies, as well as from academia. A number of role models with science or technology backgrounds will deliver career talks to secondary students online to demonstrate why a career in science is a good choice. Some of the speakers are past pupils of the schools they will virtually attend during Science Week 2021. Midlands Science is also pleased to once again partner with Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) to pre-record a unique STEM careers event called Innovate and Inspire with STEM. This event will be available for secondary school registration and will include interviews with STEM professionals and a Questions and Answer session also.

Isabel Meza Silva, from Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) said, ‘Many challenges still exist when trying to attract young people in to science and technology roles so IMR is delighted to be a part of this year’s Midlands Science Festival and we look forward to talking to as many students as possible to spread the message that there are so many potential opportunities in the worlds of science, technology and engineering. As part of Science Week 2021, we are pre-recording a STEM careers event which will feature a relaxed interview with three young people working in the following roles; a female product engineer, a female software engineer and a male Virtual reality specialist. Join us for this thought-provoking discussion and find out how advances in technology are changing the world around us and gain insight in to how different people can have their own individual routes to STEM which might not always take a traditional path.’

Jackie Gorman, Midlands Science CEO said, “ We know from talking to the students we visit every year that they want to see how their learning connects to the world after school so we are really grateful to all of the companies participating in this year’s festival. Their input is vital in helping us in our goal to inspire and empower the next generation of creative young minds to consider a career in STEM. More needs to be done to ensure that STEM is being promoted as a viable career path for everyone so we are also delighted to collaborate with IMR to host this special virtual careers event and look forward to showing students how exciting and dynamic STEM can be.

We have a wide variety of career talks this year; some will be pitched at students from Transition Year upwards and some will be delivered to younger students who haven’t yet made specific future subject choices.  It is so important that we provide speakers who can talk to young people about their own experiences and also about the wide variety of careers on offer. In the past we have had zoologists and botanists, science marketing managers and toxicology experts! This year we also have a wide variety of STEM roles up for discussion from environmental and software engineers to life sciences consultancy and STEM recruitment.”

 

 

Offaly Past Pupils to Deliver Inspiring Career talks

As part of Science Week 2021, Midlands Science is delighted to be teaming up with Arup; an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, project managers, consultants and technical specialists, working across every aspect of today’s built environment. This year’s Science Week, which is managed by Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Discover Programme, will take place from 7-14 November and is focused on Creating Our Future, the national conversation on research in Ireland. As part of the Midlands programme, Debbie Flynn (Environmental Consultant) and Una O’Grady (Senior Civil Engineer) will deliver virtual presentations to schools in Offaly.

Ahead of the virtual event, Debbie Flynn of Arup commented,

‘Arup is delighted to partake in this year’s Science Week by virtually visiting a number of local Midlands schools. We hope that sharing our s tories about how we chose our career paths and the variety of projects we work on every day will shed some light on what it means to work in STEM. It is an honour to partner with Midlands Science and hopefully inspire the students to follow their interests and choose careers where they can make a difference.’

Debbie, who is originally from Kilcormac in Co. Offaly, will share how her degree in Environmental Science has enabled her to work in a role where she assesses and advises on environmental impacts, develops environmental management plans and scopes planning and permitting requirements for engineering projects around Ireland. She will share the key pieces of advice she has for the students as they begin making decisions about third level education.

Una, hailing from Birr in Co. Offaly, will tell the students about her career delivering energy and sustainability projects in Ireland and abroad. As a member of Arup’s Energy team, she is currently working on projects to transition the energy sec tor to lower carbon emissions and help meet climate change targets. She is looking forward to telling the students about the myriad of opportunities STEM careers provide to contribute to solving the challenges faced in today’s world.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman said, ‘We are really looking forward to virtually visiting schools across the Midlands during Science Week to give students the opportunity to learn more about the latest in science careers and to talk to them about the world of opportunities associated with it as a sec tor. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Arup and our many other corporate speakers who will be giving their time to help us celebrate and showcase all things science.’

Free Virtual Vikings Event for Longford Schools

Viking Hack Silver

Midlands Science is pleased to announce details of a unique, virtual Science Week event for Longford schools, which is part of an ongoing collaboration with the Education Department of the National Museum of Ireland.  This year’s events are also presented in partnership with the Heritage Office of Longford County Council where the National Museum will host a live virtual workshop from Dublin to interact with primary school pupils in Co. Longford. Children will learn about what archaeology and science can tell us about the past and about the arrival of the Vikings to Ireland and their impact on the Midlands.

 

Siobhan Pierce, Education and Outreach Officer, Archaeology & Natural History at National Museum of Ireland commented,

‘We are delighted to be offering this virtual National Museum of Ireland event to schools in Longford as part of Science Week 2021 and it has been specially designed to suit pupils who are currently in 3rd and 4th classes. This event will include the first public broadcast of newly created videos about the Vikings in Ireland and the Midlands, and the role that archaeology and science plays in understanding our past. The videos were filmed with Museum education staff in the Museum’s Viking Ireland exhibition and use the unique collection of objects from archaeological excavations in Dublin and around Ireland to explain the archaeology of the Vikings in Ireland and in particular in Co. Longford. We are looking forward to interacting with as many people as possible on the day.’

 

There is no limit to number of classrooms in Longford that can log in and classes will be provided with a private link to YouTube. They will be allowed to ask questions via the ‘chat’ feature on YouTube. Máiréad Ni Chonghaile, Heritage Officer of Longford County Council said,

“We are delighted to be partnering with the National Museum of Ireland and Midlands Science for Science Week. It is great to see that these types of education workshops can still take place even if we are not yet in a position to do so in-person. It is a fantastic opportunity to promote science education to Longford pupils in a unique way which also explores and teaches us about our rich archaeological heritage.”

 

This workshop will be hosted by National Museum of Ireland educ0ators Siobhán Pierce and Trisha Ryan and will show Viking material found in Co. Longford including the Lough Kinale Hoard from the 9th-10th century.”

This is the third year of the partnership between the Midland Science and National Museum of Ireland, which each Science Week since 2019, has resulted in specially created workshops and events for midland counties by staff of the NMI to people in the midlands. Midlands Science is focused on not only providing science and technology activities during Science Week but also believe it is really important to also explore the link between science and the arts, heritage and culture. This National Museum event is a fantastic way to do this. See www.midlandsscience.ie and joins us in a range of recorded events as we celebrate Science Week 2021.