Annual Report 2021

Midlands Science’s Annual Report is now available to read online and it details another year promoting science, technology, engineering and maths to a range of audiences across the midlands.  Over 18,000 people engaged with activities, workshops and events and there was a 9% increase in female participation compared to 2020. Research on activities also found that 72% felt that STEM was important to the future of the midlands and workshops saw participants increase their interest in science by 50%. A number of activities in 2021 were focused on the science associated with climate change and climate action and research on these activities found that 75% of participants felt a greater sense of agency about climate action as a result of activities. This is an unforeseen benefit and addresses the growing issue of climate anxiety.

In 2021, Midlands Science was supported in its work by a diverse range of partners and it is grateful for the confidence shown in its work. This support allowed us to reach more people in a more meaningful way and create an awareness of the value of science to society and the economy in the midlands. Commenting on 2021 activities Chairperson Dr Craig Slattery said; “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, especially so many young people for continuing to engage so wholeheartedly in science during 2021 with us. You are an inspiration to us all through your enthusiasm and curiosity.”

Midlands Science achieved Level 1 Social Return On Investment in 2021, showing our commitment to managing the social value we create. It means making better, informed choices about what we do, informed by evidence and data driven evaluation. In 2021, we received a Cathoirleach Award from Westmeath Council for our work and we also joined the European Science Engagement Association. EUSEA is an international knowledge-sharing platform and accelerator of innovation in the fields of public engagement with science.

View our Annual Report Here!

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.’

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Chocolate Science to Ultra Running at the Midlands Science Festival  

How do we taste things, how can chocolate affect our brain and why do we like sweetness? Find out at this year’s Midlands Science Festival which will be taking place online again this November and events are open for booking on the festival website. The Midlands Science team has worked hard to ensure there is something for everyone again this year and will look at a range of issues from how we can all improve our joint health to an exploration of biodiversity in Ireland, an animated series exploring the science of our bodies and digging deep in to earth science and geology.

We will also be looking at ‘sugar and spice and everything science’ in a unique event exploring the Science of Chocolate which is kindly sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Join Christine Campbell of Anyone4Science and Dr Craig Slattery of UCD and discover why we like creamier chocolate, how chocolate is processed from bean to bar and what it can do to your brain!

Secondary school students will also have the chance to take part in a wide range of career focused events and workshops specially developed for Science Week in the midlands and there will be a strong focus on the contribution that research in the midlands is making in the region, creating a better future for everyone.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

‘We will be bringing plenty of fun, interactive events to schools and exploring a range of exciting science topics at our virtual Discovery Day. We also have some brand new offerings for this year including a very special fast-paced event with Ultra-runner Keith Whyte who runs 100KM in his marathons and will be exploring the science of running, including the impact of running on the human body. This event will include analysis of data from all levels of athletes from all over the Midlands!  Supported by Science Foundation Ireland and a number of partners, this year is the ninth year of the festival. The guest cura tor for this year’s festival is Dr Barry Fitzgerald of Eindhoven University of Technology and Barry will be providing a number of events this year including the ever popular Superhero Science.’

This year’s festival also sees the festival’s continued partnership with the National Museum of Ireland, providing a continued insight in to how science helps us to understand our heritage and where we live. The Midlands Science Festival Book Club for adult and younger readers is back this year as well and we will also be bringing science through classic sitcom in a unique exploration of the science of Wandavision!

Midlands Science and ESB Deliver Science Outreach to Midlands Schools

Midlands Science is pleased to announce a recent collaboration with Ireland’s leading energy utility, ESB, which seeks to provide young people with the tools to participate in science as an act of engaged citizenship. This exciting initiative, “Everyday Science” will take place in a number of secondary schools across the Midlands in the coming weeks including, St. Brendan’s Birr Community School in Birr, Mountmellick Community College and Oaklands Community College in Edenderry.

Pat Naughton, Director of People and Organisation Development at ESB commented,

‘Our position as Ireland’s foremost energy company makes us a vital part in building a brighter, more sustainable future so ESB is delighted to work with Midlands Science to showcase the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths education. Supporting young people, adults and our potential future workforce to engage with STEM is a key aspect of our own work within the community. It is important to introduce young children to STEM at an early age in order to spark that curiosity to learn more and we also need to demonstrate its diversity and relevance by showing how important it is to solving challenges across all aspects of everyday life.’

A key part of the work carried out by not-for-profit organisation, Midlands Science, throughout the year is to work with companies, students, scientists, teachers, and community members to explore and solve STEM related challenges related to issues that affect their communities and experience of life. Connecting to real-world and more relevant topics helps young people to develop a deeper understanding of STEM concepts.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman said,

“Everyday Science” will be delivered by RTE Junior’s award-winning scientist, Philip Smyth and using a range of workshop topics from Sustainability and Climate Change to Taste, Music and Future Tech, this project seeks to equip young people with the tools to actively engage with science in ways which will inform their future development as active citizens and a transition in to adulthood, making decisions as consumers and citizens based on evidence. This is closely aligned to Science Foundation Ireland’s and Government policy which endeavours to have the most scientifically literate public in the world. In addition to students in selected schools taking part in this programme, teachers will be trained as facilita tors as part of the programme, so they can cascade their learning to other groups which we will encourage the development of as part of the programme. Building a better future is a responsibility we all share and working with companies such as ESB enables Midlands Science to play a small part in this so we are very grateful to have this opportunity and look forward to continuing to inspire students across the region in the weeks ahead.’

Photo: Phil Smyth

 

Expert Panel to Explore Viruses, Vaccines & Immunity with Midlands Science

Midlands Science is pleased to announce that the third event in its virtual Science Communities series will take place on October 20th at 10am (on zoom) and this interactive forum will focus on all things related to Viruses, Vaccines and Immunity. The event is free of charge and open to everyone. The forum will feature a talk from Professor Luke O’Neill from Trinity College Dublin. Now widely recognised as being one of the world’s most influential scientists, Luke is passionate about engaging people on scientific topics. The Science Communities project is funded by Science Foundation Ireland through the Discover Award programme and is designed to build impactful dialogue and discussion between community groups in the Midlands and those involved in science and public policy.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman commented,

‘Through these community forums, which explore science, evidence, health and medicine, we want to create an open conversation about how scientific evidence informs public health advice. We are delighted to host this particular topic given its relevance to the international pandemic and we will be encouraging conversation between members of the audience and our panel of experts who will look at viruses and vaccines, explaining what they are and how they work in our body. We will also be discussing vaccines, immunisation and the national immunisation programme along with vaccine hesitancy and the psychology behind this.’

Professor Luke O’Neill holds the Chair of Biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin, is an author and expert on Immunology and has been a positive voice on how science will beat Covid 19 since March 2020.  Professor Karina Butler, was a Consultant Paediatrician at Children’s Health Ireland specialising in Infectious Diseases for many years. She is a Clinical Professor of Paediatrics at UCD and was appointed to NPHET in late 2020, is a member of the COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group of HIQA and a member of the High-Level Task Force for COVID. Professor Jamie Murphy is a Professor in Psychology and a member of the Psychology Research Institute at Ulster University.

Trinity College Dublin Professor of Biochemistry, Luke O’ Neill said,

‘This has been a most alarming period for all of us, but the legacy of this pandemic will be that science delivered on its promise. There comes a great level of responsibility when informing the public of health information relating to Covid19 and it is so critically important to get the facts out and to get the right information across to people because everybody wants to know about it. Understandably, people have so many questions, even now after all this time. The bot tom line though, is that science delivered highly effective, safe vaccines and vaccination truly is the only way out of this pandemic.’

If you are interested in taking part in this project, please email outreach@midlandsscience.ie for more information. For registration details, please check our website on https://www.midlandsscience.ie/

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0ocemsqz8sH9Xl7tWRdZdErI7PJk-eVadm

 

 

 

Virtual Midlands Science Festival Returns this November

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

Preparations are well underway for this year’s Midlands Science Festival which takes place online again this year as part of national Science Week 2021. This year’s Science Week, which is managed by Science Foundation Ireland is focused on Creating Our Future, the national conversation on research in Ireland.

The Midlands Science Festival, which begins on November 6th with a virtual Discovery Day, celebrates the world of science with imaginative programming that is bursting with lively interviews and career talks, film productions, hands-on workshops and interactive demonstrations for people of all ages.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

‘As an organisation, we took the decision to keep our festival on a virtual platform once more for 2021 because while some of our audiences may be ready to revert to hosting events in-person, others are not. Our Festival aims to connect people with scientists, engineers, and technologists and we managed to successfully do that online last year with plenty of engaging activities for adults and young people to enjoy. This year will follow a similar pattern beginning with our Discovery Day, which is kindly supported by local medical device company, Integra Lifesciences. This will be aired on November 6th and will feature a range of fun and exciting activities such as the Reptile Zoo, Exploration Dome and Superhero Science. This event is free of charge but must be pre-booked via our website.’

 

The Midlands Science Festival encourages collaboration and once again this year, Midlands Science will be partnering with organisations such as the National Museum of Ireland to demonstrate that important connection between science, culture and the arts. The week-long programme will also feature events  with Dublin Zoo, sea-life exploration with Marine Dimensions, lively experiments with Anyone4Science and much more! It a wonderful opportunity for science enthusiasts to see what’s new and innovative in the world of science and technology.

Welcoming the announcement of the Midlands Science Festival, Dr Ruth Freeman, Direc tor of Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland, said:

“We are delighted to be organising the 26th Science Week with the theme Creating Our Future. As Ireland’s biggest week of the year in terms of engaging the public in all things science, we aim to ignite and facilitate a discussion around the future we want and the role science can play in creating that future. With our partners we are excited to deliver a fantastic variety of virtual and in-person events to the public, so there are opportunities to discover, create, and engage with science wherever you are.

“As the government’s Creating our Future campaign culminates shortly after science week, we would encourage everyone that engages with Science Week to visit the creatingourfuture.ie website to submit their thoughts and ideas on the scientific research they believe should be carried out to create a better, shared future. This Midlands Science Festival will provide an opportunity for the public attend events and discussions that I hope will inspire ideas for future research.”

Each year, this festival offers workshops and events which span a diverse range of subjects that encompass science in the broadest sense, promising something for everyone.

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘We are delighted through support from Science Foundation Ireland and a number of key partnerships to be bringing a number of stimulating science events to the Midlands this November. All things science will be explored through shows, demonstrations and interviews to advance our understanding and appreciation of everything from chocolate to star-gazing. We will also be delving in to a range of relatable public issues from the importance of joint health, to ecology and environmental concerns like flooding. Science can help us understand what is happening around us and also provides us with information to make different choices in the future. We hope that people will take the opportunity to virtually attend some of the events which we have programmed for this year, they all feature world class experts who are passionate about science and they love to share that passion with others.’

Throughout Science Week there will be a variety of ways for you to get involved through events, social media and much more. Please check our website for details which will be updated soon www.midlandsscience.ie and you can also use and follow #CreatingOurFuture and #ScienceWeek online.

Further details about Midlands Science can be found on www.midlandsscience.ie and it can be found also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Midlands Science is also encouraging everyone this year to take part in Ireland’s biggest brain s torm by visiting www.creatingourfuture.ie, where you can submit your ideas for things you’d like researchers in Ireland to work on.

 

NOTES FOR THE EDITOR:

Midlands Science is a not-for-profit company which develops and delivers innovative STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] outreach programmes and events in the Midlands counties of Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath. They provide opportunities for people of all ages to explore and discuss issues of scientific interest, recognising that science is a unique and valuable part of our culture and society.  These opportunities include school outreach, public events, a regional science festival, capacity building for others doing STEM outreach and a range of special projects. All activities are provided free of charge to participants. The organisation is funded by Rethink Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, The Naugh ton Foundation, The Ireland Funds Private Donor Network and a wide range of corporate and philanthropic sources.

 

 

 

 

Maths and Fun in Equal Measures with Midlands Science

Maths Week has been taking place in Ireland every year since 2006 and it will kick off again this Oc tober 16th across the country. Maths Week has grown to attract participation from as many as 300,000 people annually across Ireland yet often, we still don’t realise that maths is everywhere and part of all facets of everyday life. Midlands Science is pleased to be delivering a number of virtual events during Maths Week across the region this Oc tober as part of its ongoing work to help promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) to people of all ages.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman said,

‘We live in a world of numbers and algorithms and as adults we see first-hand how important it is to be confident with maths; it really is a life skill. Midlands Science is delighted to support Maths Week by working with expert providers who can help children to see the lighter aspects of maths by connecting it to real life scenarios such as using it in household tasks or in activities like counting your steps. Maths Week is a great opportunity to create a more positive view of maths and to develop a deep and long-lasting understanding of it as a subject. It also gives us adults a reminder to build our own maths skills, something we can all improve throughout our lives.’

Midlands Science and its providers have an abundance of experience in managing initiatives which focus on creating a more positive outlook towards maths. It seeps in to most aspects of life whether we realise it or not and introducing children to more captivating and interactive activities can help bring the subject to life. As part of this year’s Maths Week celebrations, Midlands Science is teaming up Dr Niamh Shaw, Anyone4Science and the Exploration Dome to run workshops which help encourage pupils to see the fun side of maths.

Christine Campbell of ‘Anyone4Science’ is one of the providers who will be running events for pupils in the Midlands during Maths Week.

Christine said,

‘I believe that the most important thing we can do for our children is to ensure that they expect to be good at maths. There are lots of household tasks involving numeracy to inspire them. Make shopping lists, work out how many eggs you need to buy, let the kids bake and maybe using half quantities. Learning for younger pupils should be fun, challenging and rewarding. Let your child know that you too are good at maths, use it regularly and include them in everyday maths and try to have fun with it.’