Behind the Scenes at Midlands Science Festival 2015!

Jackie and Eddie

The countdown has begun and with less than eight weeks to go until this year’s national Science Week and the Midlands Science Festival kick off, we are really gearing up to make it our best year yet!

We’ll be serving up an exciting feast of around 90 activities and events for all ages so please keep an eye on our blog and events page for updates and news which will be coming your way very soon.

This year’s festival will provide something for all ages. In particular, we want to ensure that we are really focusing on younger audiences as our research tells us that the earlier we can get in to classrooms to start promoting science, the better.

We are really pleased to have the Reptile Zoo back again to entertain children with a variety of exotic animals and the Irish Wildlife Trust and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland who will be teaching children about environmental awareness through participation in a range of games and activities. We are also very excited about bringing the Exploration Dome to a Midlands primary school where pupils will learn about earth science, maths and astronomy and there are lots more workshops, shows and surprises from star gazing to bogs and insects to sea creatures right across the region this November.

We look forward to celebrating the wonders of science with you all!
Science Week 2.0 – be inspired, get involved and design your future!

Pho to: One of our key speakers, Dr. Eddie Murphy with Midlands Science Festival Direc tor,
Jackie Gorman at Clara Bog Visi tor Centre, Co. Offaly.

Many Midlands Students Unaware of Science Career Opportunities

Dr Craig Slattery at LynchsLocal teens are not necessarily avoiding science career choices due to the subject being too difficult or not cool enough. It may in fact be the case that they are simply not aware of the multitude of science related jobs there are out there, according to a recent survey of a selection of Midlands schools by the organisers of the Midlands Science Festival.

Jackie Gorman, Festival Direc tor said,
‘While we found enthusiasm for science remains high among students, an overwhelming 95 per cent of those questioned admitted they knew very little about potential career options in science related fields. It was also worth noting that 3 out of 4 students who were surveyed would like science to be taught differently, for it to be more fun and engaging and connected to real life!

The Midlands Science Festival, supported by Science Foundation Ireland, is now heading in to its third year in this region and one of the main objectives of this week-long event is to demonstrate the many exciting career opportunities available within Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths disciplines. The festival team has also recently commenced another new Midlands based project entitled, Science with Inspirational Men tors (SWIM) which places a strong emphasis on men toring from role models and champions from those in the science education and corporate sec tors. The project, also supported by Science Foundation Ireland, complements the national Smart Futures programme.

Prof Mark Ferguson, Direc tor General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government stated, “It is vitally important for students to have events like the Midlands Festival and Smart Futures to open their eyes to the variety of pathways available when pursuing careers in science, engineering or technology. The Smart Futures programme is managed by Science Foundation Ireland in partnership with Engineers Ireland to ensure students and their parents and teachers have ready access to young people working in science, engineering and technology. Students are encouraged to visit www.SmartFutures.ie to read about people studying and working in a variety of exciting areas from food science to cybersecurity.”

Jackie Gorman added,
‘The aforementioned research suggests there is a real urgency to ensure that young people are getting the best type of careers advice possible and by taking it beyond just the classroom and in to real working environments, we hope we are going in the right direction. We need to increase interest in these fields and work towards inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. If you are a second level student who is still undecided about your career path, the Midlands Science Festival which is due to take place this November will certainly provide plenty of stimulation and hopefully help you to make more informed decisions about your future options.’

For further information please contact: Jackie Gorman on jgorman@atlanticcorridor.ie

Inspirational Men tors for Midlands Schools

SWIM Pic haywood april 14thAtlantic Corridor was delighted to kick start a brand new education initiative for the Midlands in recent weeks with the launch of the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded project, Science with Inspirational Men tors (SWIM)

This programme is being delivered in partnership with SFI along with the Amber Centre in Trinity College Dublin and focuses on bringing men tors or role models with science or technology backgrounds in to Midlands’ secondary schools to deliver career talks and demonstrate in a hand on way why a career in science is a good choice. Volunteers for this initiative are from life sciences organisations and technology companies, as well as from research centres and academia.

Science expertise involves whole-life learning—beyond the confines of any classroom or labora tory. It is so important that when learning science it includes innovation and creativity, up to date resources, engagement and partnerships that empower and enable the students to connect learning to actual real-world situations. These 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.

CEO of Atlantic Corridor, Jackie Gorman said,
‘SWIM aims increase participation in STEM education and careers in the Midlands. A new suite of activities is being delivered in collaboration with Cpl Recruitment and the Amber Centre in Trinity College and will specifically focus on the Life Sciences sec tor. The project will place a strong emphasis on men toring from role models and champions for Life Sciences education. With this in mind, we are asking anyone with a science background who feels they have the experience and passion to potentially act as a role model to the next generation of Midlands scientists to please get in touch. Being a role model extends beyond just presenting science in a well-informed way. It’s someone who will encourage and nurture curiosity about science. It’s also someone who wants to make a difference by teaching science and is passionate about how it affects our daily lives.’

To date, presentations have been delivered in a number of Offaly, Laois and Westmeath second level schools with further events planned for the coming months.

Jennifer Navan, Principal Team Lead at leading recruitment specialist Cpl commented,
‘Cpl is delighted to support the SWIM initiative which gives Midlands students the opportunity to develop their knowledge of the world of work and the types of future jobs that might be available to them, particularly in the subject areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. The more work that can be done by scientific role models in this region, the more likely it is that students will consider one of these fields as a future career option. Many of the global medical technologies and pharmaceutical companies now have a dedicated presence in the Midlands and we would like to generate an increased interest in these fields and work towards inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.’

A key part of SFI’s mission is to contribute to Ireland’s continued growth and development as a society – one that has an active and informed interest and involvement in STEM. Atlantic Corridor is playing an active role to ensure that this happens in the Midlands counties and will continue the delivery of SWIM across Offaly, Laois, Westmeath and Longford for the remainder of this year.

Jackie Gorman continued,
‘Volunteer STEM Ambassadors have a critical role here in inspiring young people in STEM subjects through real life examples but it can be difficult to demonstrate to young people how important these subjects are without seeing how they can be put to use in industry. Follow on events such as plant tours of key Midlands multinational companies, science camps at Trinity College and work placements will be high on the agenda as we continue to roll out this important programme for the rest of 2015.’

For further information please contact Jackie Gorman, Atlantic Corridor: 057 93 239 02

FUNDING APPROVED FOR INSPIRATIONAL MIDLANDS SCIENCE PROJECT

Atlantic Corridor is delighted to announce a brand new project for 2015, following recent Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) approval. This initiative which will be run in partnership with SFI along with the Amber Centre in Trinity College Dublin and is entitled ‘Science with Inspirational Men tors’ or SWIM.

CEO OF Atlantic Corridor Jackie Gorman commented,
‘We are delighted to have received the funding from SFI, though its SFI Discover Programme Call, for this exciting new project, which aims to increase participation in STEM education and careers in our region. A new suite of activities will be delivered in collaboration with Trinity College and will specifically focus on the Midlands Life Sciences sec tor, which has strong potential for cluster development and growth. Proposed activities will address economic and educational disadvantage whilst also focussing on the potential the region has in this particular sec tor. We are looking forward to working with both industry and academic partners in rolling this out for 2015.’

Atlantic Corridor intend to design and deliver pilot programmes which will increase student interest in Life Sciences subjects and careers and will employ practices that research indicates are effective in creating student interest such as content related to real-world applications, ideally though hands-on learning. The project will place a strong emphasis on men toring from those in the education and corporate sec tors and also from role models and champions for Life Sciences education.
SWIM will make a strong contribution to Ireland’s national vision to be a global knowledge leader that places scientific and engineering research at the core of its society to power economic development and social progress. It also contributes to bringing such development and progress to a region, which has issues related to economic development and educational attainment. This work will be done by providing classroom activities and content that compliments the existing curriculum and links it to industry case studies.

Keep an eye out to see how this project develops in the year ahead!

The Travels of Curious Kim…

ploughing bDon’t forget to follow our lover of all things science and virtual brand ambassador on Twitter …@curiouskim1 for plenty of updates on our upcoming events …

Our loveable Midlands Science Festival mascot really has been all over the Midlands in the lead up to Science Week, so check out her page for lots of facts and figures that show how science really is all around us!

Rediscovering Waste!

rediscovery centreWe are delighted to be bringing something very different to this year’s festival in the form of recycling. The Rediscovery Centre is a social enterprise dedicated to providing community employment and training via innovative reuse enterprises which use waste and unwanted materials as a resource and raw material for new product design.

Rediscovery Centre scientists, designers, business managers and craftsmen are united in a common purpose of sustainability through resource efficiency and life cycle design.  We are really looking forward to welcoming our friends from the centre as they bring demonstrations and educational activities to the region this year, which highlight the benefits of effective resource management and encourage everyone to REDISCOVER the value of waste.

Join us for Tales of the Unexpected….

Jonathan McCreaThis unique audiovisual experience is a free event for the Midlands Science Festival but booking is essential.. See Events page for details..

We’re all going to the movies with Newstalk’s Jonathan McCrea and it’s going to be like nothing you’ve experienced before. Join Jonathan as he introduces some of the best science s tories from the world of animation, radio and television. We’ll be seeing everything from astronomy to zoology in a series of movie and documentary clips which have been specially curated for the festival by this award winning broadcaster.

You’ll learn a bit more at this evening about being science media savvy and you’ll get to enjoy some amazing short movies and radio clips that will make you think about how important science is in our society. Science Movie Night was one of our biggest hits at last year’s festival so please book now for this event.

 

Science Selfie Reminder….

Ploughing aThere isn’t long to go so we just wanted to remind you that if you see our virtual brand ambassador, Curious Kim  in a place near you over the next week or two, please take a selfie with her, tweet it and you could win a great prize!
You can look out for us in a town, school, shopping centre, tourist spot and many other places as we will be continuing to bring Curious Kim on tour around the Midlands and beyond!
Why not get in to the spirit of the Midlands Science Festival and help us celebrate Science Week 2014…

@curiouskim1

Letting Science Loose in Laois!

Ploughing1We are really looking forward to our line-up in Laois this year! The festival will take science out of the lab and in to our libraries and primary school classrooms, giving people a variety of fun ways to explore and open up a multitude of ideas for a future career in science.

Catherine Casey, Heritage Officer with Laois County Council said, ‘Laois County Council is delighted to be associated with this year’s Midlands Science Festival. We had a little taste of what’s on offer when the ‘Junior Einsteins Science Club’ performed to packed audiences in the Laois tent at the Ploughing Championships recently. Science Week is a free, family-friendly, programme of events which allows people of all ages to discover something new, participate in a number of hands-on science and technology activities and see a whole host of live performances by science enthusiasts and communica tors.’

This is the second year that a dedicated programme of free Science Week events is being rolled out in the counties of Laois, Offaly, Westmeath and Longford. It will bring together a large number of interested participants including entrepreneurs and researchers, science and technology speakers, science students and the general public from all over the Midlands.

In planning the programme, we have partnered with a number of schools and other regional organisations, such as Laois County Council, Abbeyleix Heritage House and Portlaoise Library to create opportunities which excite students about science and demonstrate how it connects to real life. It’s about creating greater interest in science education and careers which of course benefits the Midlands region.

Laois event highlights include an address by zoologist Seán Kelly of Trinity College Dublin on a new species of a colourful bird which has been discovered by a group of Irish students on the Waka tobi islands south of Sulawesi in Indonesia. We are delighted to welcome Seán to Abbeyleix Heritage House on November 10th to talk about what must be a once in a lifetime experience for any biologist– the discovery of a new species. Another public talk which will be of particular interest to students and members of the public who are interested in wildlife is ‘THE SILENCE OF THE TENRECS’, which will take place in Mountmellick Public Library on November 12th.The key speaker, Sive Finlay of Trinity College Dublin is another zoologist with a broad range of research interests in evolution, ecology, comparative biology & behavioural ecology. This public talk is a unique opportunity to learn about the science of wildlife research & conservation.

We also look forward to welcoming award-winning science writer , Mary Mulvihill of ‘Ingenious Ireland’ to Laois during the festival. Mary wants everyone to know that Ireland is not just a nation of writers – we also produced some of the world’s greatest scientists and engineers, and our ideas have helped to change the world. Mary runs popular science walking tours of Dublin, writes a science columnist for The Irish Times, and you can hear her speaking in Portlaoise Library on November 12th.

These are just some of the many locally produced and pre-booked workshops taking place but to find out how to book your free place for some of the other innovative events that will be happening in Laois and the wider region you can view a detailed listing on our Events section.

 

Fostering the Scientists of the Future…

ploughing iWe are really excited about having the’ Junior Einsteins Science Club’ for the first time at the Midlands Science Festival this year. This unique club incorporates core science in to fun sessions of hands-on  experiments designed to stimulate and create a love of science and nature.

Tracey-Jane Cassidy is the founder and inspiration behind this wonderful club…. I caught up with Tracey recently at this 2014 Ploughing Championships where she and her scientists were presenting to excited audiences in the Laois tent… to find out more about what Junior Einsteins is all about…

Tracey, can you tell us what the inspiration was behind the Junior Einsteins Club?
As a scientist and a single Mum of three very young children, I see every day how children are fascinated by the science in everyday things. Having moved home to Ireland after living abroad for 12 years, I realised that there is not enough science being taught in primary schools here. I started running after school science clubs locally in south Dublin and with incredible, growing demand ‘Junior Einsteins’ has exploded in to a nationwide phenomenon.

We are an innovative initiative passionate about bringing a love of science and learning to primary school aged children.
Our inclusive , hands-on approach is unique . We are not a science class, the children make and do their own experiments , wearing their lab coats and goggles, using real scientific equipment including a university grade Van Der Graff Genera tor.

What can of activities do you offer?
We hold lots of amazing science events throughout the year from an awesome Google event to the incredible buzz of The National Ploughing Championships. We provide Science Birthday Parties,communion parties, after-school science clubs, Hallowe’en, Easter & Summer camps and corporate events. These activities are aimed towards primary school children, but adults are fascinated too. We have even been asked to do a science hen night! Once we explain a difficult scientific concept in the most simple fashion, whether the audience is 9 or 90, they gain knowledge in a fun way and remember through doing.

Is it a challenge to promote science education? If so, what do you think we could do to make science more attractive as a career option?
We have been embraced and encouraged at every turn. Schools, parents and children are keen to have after school science clubs at their schools. All children love to make slime , build rockets, dig up dinosaur bones and even electrocute a Barbie doll while learning the ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ in the process. Parents associations and principals in schools have grasped the ethos of Junior Einsteins Science Club and the children are thrilled.

I feel that science is a language and all languages are better unders tood and learnt more easily if introduced at a young age. All primary school aged children should have the opportunity to attend a fun, relaxed, hands-on science after school club so science education is promoted. I believe that if the grammar of science is learnt early in primary school, then children will not be reluctant to choose the sciences at secondary level and will embrace the expansive knowledge and fascinating facts that science offers. The children in whom the love of science is cultivated now will be the science students at third level and as graduates, they will be the scientists who will shape our future.

We must not underestimate young children, nor condescend to them. I have 6 year olds in after school science clubs who can explain Mendelian inheritance using lego!

Why are events like the Midlands Science festival so important do you think?
Science is entertaining. The Midlands Science Festival is an extravaganza of exciting exploration of science for all ages. It is an excuse and a reason to dust off that chemistry set and enjoy the camaraderie of everyone who is interested in our as tonishing planet and universe and every wonderful facts and theorys that they have to offer. We here at Junior Einsteins Science Club have scientists who are so full of excitement and enthusiasm for science that it is contagious.

What is your favourite science fact?
I love that science is less about an individual person’s intelligence and more about team work curiosity, imagination and perseverance. As Einstein said: I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.