NUI Galway Announces Scholarship Scheme for Unemployed and Low Income Groups

NUI Galway Announces Scholarship Scheme for Unemployed and Low Income Groups-image

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

This year, as a further effort to enhance access and participation opportunities for unemployed and low income groups, NUI Galway has approved a Scholarship Scheme to reduce fees for applicants in receipt of Job Seekers Benefit, Job Seekers Allowance and One-Parent Family Payment, who wish to enrol for part-time degree and diploma courses provided by the University, and who meet Department of Social Protection income thresholds. One of the programmes to benefit from this welcome announcement is the BA in Community and Family Studies. This distance learning programme is a four year, part-time honours degree programme in Community and Family Studies.  Community Education Officer at NUI Galway, Deirdre Hardiman, says: “It is designed to enable participants to further develop and enhance their knowledge and skills relevant to Family and Community work practice and policy inIrelandor abroad. This includes a study of the community, voluntary and Irish state sector’s roles in supporting community and family life in a rapidly changing Irish society.  Areas of study include community development, family support, adolescence, childcare, health, political and general socio-economic studies.” Students are awarded a Diploma in Arts in Community and Family Studies on successful completion of the first two years of the programme and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Community and Family Studies on completion of the four-year cycle. Helen Casey, Community Education Officer, NUI Galway, also added: “To accommodate the work and family commitments of adult learners, the course will be delivered through distance learning, which is a combination of workshops, assignments and learning materials.  Students will attend around six workshops per year. The workshops (held Friday/ Saturday) will be provided at a number of geographic locations throughoutIreland.” Formal academic qualifications are not required to commence the BA in Community and Family Studies but applicants must meet the University’s requirements for mature students entering higher education. Other programmes to benefit from the scheme for the unemployed and low-income groups include part-time blended learning programmes in the Science and Technology area of Medical Device Design, Environmental Sustainability, Lean and Quality System, Software Engineering and Database Technologies, Technology Management and a number of part-time Diploma programmes in French, Italian and Spanish. Further information and application forms on the BA Community & Family Studies are available from the Programme Administrator, Community Education Centre, Hygeia Office Block, Nuns Island , NUI Galway Tel: 091 495472/495786 and may also be downloaded from: http://www.nuigalway.ie/communityeducation A full list of all part-time Adult Education Programmes is available at: www.nuigalway.ie/adulteducation. As closing dates vary, prospective students are encouraged to apply immediately.

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Biomedical Training Begins, Stanford University Style

Biomedical Training Begins, Stanford University Style-image

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

BioInnovate Ireland, a specialist training programme in medical device innovation, modeled on Stanford University’s prestigious Biodesign Programme, was officially launched at NUI Galway today (2 August). The BioInnovate Ireland Fellowship Programme has been jointly developed and delivered by a consortium of five Higher Education Institutions which include NUI Galway,UniversityofLimerick, Royal College of Surgeons inIreland,DublinCityUniversityand University College Cork. The overall aim of the programme is to train graduates to support the creation of new, cost-effective medical devices that improve patient care through a collaborative approach that focuses on the needs of patients, physicians and the health care industry as a whole. The impetus for the development of this specialist training programme emerged from the 2010 Innovation Taskforce Report. The new programme aims to hot-house, in the space of 10 months, talented individuals with multidisciplinary backgrounds to explore and develop in teams, opportunities for innovative medical devices. Programme participants will experience an intensive clinical immersion in teaching hospitals to help identify potential medical device development opportunities. Throughout the 10-month period, they will avail of the expert advice, direction and guidance from dedicated industrial mentors and serial entrepreneurs, along with clinicians with an interest in enhancing patient care through medical device innovation. Research students in the BioInnovate consortium will have access to modules as part of their structured PhD programmes to broaden their education and expose them to the process of bringing ideas from concept to commercialisation. This initiative has received funding fromEnterpriseIrelandand also support from several medical device development and service companies including: Medtronic, Creganna-Tactx Medical, Lake Region Medical Ltd and Steripack, Ltd. It is envisaged that the BioInnovate Ireland Fellowship Programme will act as a catalyst for enhancing innovation in medical device development withinIreland. Speaking about the programme, the newly appointed Fellowship Director, NUI Galway’s Dr Mark Bruzzi, said: “Our mission is to educate the next generation of leaders in innovation and to support the future of the medical device technologies sector inIreland. The academic partners driving the development of the BioInnovate Fellowship Programme are committed to support innovation and entrepreneurship and to evolve the academic component of the Irish Medical Technologies ecosystem to ensure that the needs of the industry are met.” After an arduous application process, the eight successful applicants in the programme’s inaugural year, have now been split across two teams in Galway and Dublin. Commencing immediately, both teams will work within the clinical are of Cardiology, focussing on interventional and surgical procedures. The group of eight candidates come with a wealth of experience across the disciplines of medicine, engineering, business, law, science and information technology The search for elite candidates with a strong interest in becoming leaders in medical device innovation through participation in the 2012 cycle of the BioInnovate Ireland Fellowship Programme will commence in the Autumn. -ENDS-

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July 2011

Fulbright Commission Awards US Citizens to Study Irish in the Gaeltacht

Fulbright Commission Awards US Citizens to Study Irish in the Gaeltacht-image

Monday, 25 July 2011

20 UScitizens have been awarded grants for the Irish Language Summer Study Awards from the Ireland - United States [Fulbright] Commission for Educational Exchange. These new awards enableUS citizens, currently studying Irish in theUnited States, to participate in Irish language courses in the Gaeltacht this summer. Half of the total scholarship awardees,  supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs and the National Lottery,  will study at NUI Galway’s Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge in An Cheathrú Rua. Successful candidates have received a monetary award to cover travel to and fromIrelandand tuition in the course of their choice. Those studying at NUI Galway’s Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge in An Cheathrú Rua include: Mr Kevin Clark, a Fair Haven, New Jersey attorney and security consultant, served over thirty-five years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New Jersey State Commission of Investigation and Ocean County Prosecutors Office.  A member of Daltaí na Gaeilge atBrookdaleCommunity College,Middletown,NJ, he has attended Irish Summer Colleges with Oideas Gael, NUI Galway and Rath Cairn. He will spend a month studying at Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge. Ms Kerri Farrell holds an MA in Irish and Irish American Studies fromNew YorkUniversity and is currently working towards an MA in Irish Literature and Culture atBostonCollege.  She will spend two weeks in an Irish Intensive course with NUI Galway. Ms Lynnasha Galbreath is a student of Graphic Design at the University of Kansas. Lynnasha studied Irish for one year at Haskell Indian Nations University and will spend one week at Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge. Ms Jacqueline Geleta is a rising senior studying at theUniversity ofPittsburgh inPennsylvania. Ms Geleta has studied Irish for 12 months in Carraroe as well as at theUniversity ofPittsburgh. She will spend four weeks in Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge again this summer Ms Ciara Grogan is a full-time student entering her final undergraduate year atCUNYQueensCollege.  She will graduate in spring 2012 with a BA in speech-language pathology.  She has been studying Irish for three semesters and will spend four weeks in NUI Galway. Mr Garth Lambson is a graduate student fromIdahoStateUniversity based inPocatello,Idaho. Mr Lambson has studied Irish for a year withLehmanCollege, City University of New York and will spend four weeks in NUI Galway. Ms Edyta Lehmann is a native of Poland. She currently lives in Boston, writing her PhD dissertation at the Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University.  She will spend four weeks studying Irish at Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge. Ms Molly Loesche is currently writing her History Master's thesis, Rural Women and the Irish Ireland Movement, at theUniversity ofNebraska,Omaha. She has been studying Irish for just over one year, and is looking forward to spending four weeks at NUI Galway in An Cheathrú Rua furthering her studies. Mr Lucas Miller is a faculty member atHaskellIndianNationsUniversity inLawrence,Kansas,USA.  He has studied Irish for one year under the tutelage of an Irish Fulbright Scholar, and will be studing in An Cheathru Rua for one month this summer. Mr Ed Shevlin is a NYC Sanitation Worker who holds an AA in Historical Studies from Empire State College. Mr Shevlin is pursuing a BA in Irish Studies from the same institution, while taking Gaeilge classes atLehmanCollege. Ed began his Gaeilge studies at NUI Galway in the summer of 2009 and will undertake the Intermediate level course this summer. Commenting on the awards, the Minister of State with responsibility for the Irish language, Dinny McGinley T.D. said: “I am delighted that my Department was in a position to provide funding to the Fulbright Commission for this very worthwhile initiative. I am particularly pleased that an increasing number of students who study Irish in theUSand in many other parts of the world, continue their studies here inIrelandand as a consequence, can now be seen attending courses in the Gaeltacht. This results in bonds of friendship and a lifelong interest and understanding of the rich language and culture of this country. Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann muid!” Speaking about the candidates, Ms Colleen Dube, Executive Director of the Fulbright Commission, said: “We were delighted, though not surprised, by the response to this new program which confirms the diversity of reasons and places that Americans are learning Irish.   Recent research that we have conducted has identified just over 80 third level and community based institutions across theUSthat are teaching Irish.  The applications revealed that Americans are learning Irish not just to re-connect with their Irish roots but to assist their PhD research in anthropology, religion, history and comparative literature.  Irish is seen by several applicants as not just a hobby or luxury but an essential academic skill. “Awardees’ backgrounds are varied, cross disciplined and stem from all walks of life.  We have students from a wide range of American universities includingBostonCollege, City University of New York, Emory, Harvard, Haskell Indian Nations, Idaho State College,UniversityofConnecticutand Yale. We hope these successful candidates will share their experiences with others on their return to theUSand encourage more to learn Irish in theUSandIreland.” Other successful awardees will attend the following courses: Oideas Gael, Glencolmcille, Donegal Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne, Ballyferriter, Kerry FEICIM, Inis Oírr,Galway The Irish Language Summer Study Awards are not Fulbright Awards but a separate initiative of theIreland - United States Commission for Educational Exchange (The Fulbright Commission) and are supported by the Irish Government Department of Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht Affairs and the Irish National Lottery. For more information visit www.fulbright.ie.

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European Debating Universities Championships to be Hosted in NUI Galway

European Debating Universities Championships to be Hosted in NUI Galway-image

Monday, 25 July 2011

Over 600 debaters, from over 140 institutes right across Europe and further afield includingQatar,RussiaandIsrael, will descend onGalwayfor the European Universities Debating Championships hosted by NUI Galway. This is the first time this week-long championship will place inGalwayand will run from 7 to 12 August. The NUI Galway Law Society and the Literary and Debating Society are hosting the championships, which will cover debate topics such as economic policy, international relations and philosophy. The exact motions of the debates will not be released to the delegates until 15 minutes before each heat starts. Each team will debate in English but will be split into two categories, those who have English as a first language and those who speak it as a second language; there will be two finals under these categories. Nollaig Ó Scannlain, Chief Organiser and NUI Galway student, said: “We are very proud to be hosting this prestigious European event. It is a great opportunity for us to showcase the debating talents of NUI Galway students and to show many other European institutes the facilities that the University has to offer. Throughout the week’s activities, debaters will get a taste ofGalwayand Irish traditions and we are very much looking forward to learning from the diverse group of students who will be visiting.” First held in 1999, the European Universities Debating Championships is an annual debating tournament for teams from universities across Europe, although teams from theMiddle Eastand central Asian institutions are eligible pending the formation of similar competitions in their regions. For more information on the European Debating Universities Championships visit www.galwayeudc2011.ie.   ENDS

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University Alliance Establishes Two New Joint Programmes

University Alliance Establishes Two New Joint Programmes-image

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Joint Programmes established to tackle Smart Economy Skills Shortage  The NUI Galway – University of Limerick Strategic Alliance is proud to announce the establishment two new joint MSc programmes which will address strategic R&D requirements for the country. The programmes, MSc Finance and Information Systems and MSc Sustainable Resource Management: Policy and Practice are significant in that they are the first joint programmes to be delivered through an Irish university alliance.   Smart Economy Skills Shortage – MSc Finance and Information Systems Finance and economics graduates looking to upskill can now avail of a new joint programme delivered by the Kemmy Business School, UL and the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway. The new programme builds on the strengths of strategic alliance partners, NUI Galway and the University of Limerick, to deliver a programme in response to the market demand for graduates with ICT and financial management skills. The programme addresses a number of the skills shortage areas that have been identified in Forfás’ Guiding Principles for Submission of Proposals, Forfás’ 2011 document Guidance for Higher Education Providers on Current and Future Skills Needs of Enterprise, and the Government’s Building Ireland’s Smart Economy. While covering key future skills needs, the programme provides students with an opportunity to update, build and improve key strengths and capabilities, redirect their careers or consider how they can create their own employment or develop new routes to employment. The programme aims to provide essential ICT technical skills, but equally aims to deliver the financial management skills and financial decision making acumen – critical for employees in the targeted industrial sectors and core to the success of Ireland’s future economic growth. Professor Donal Dineen, Dean of the Kemmy Business School, UL, said: “This is an exciting new programme that combines the complementary expertise of the academic staff of the Business Schools of both NUI Galway and UL; the skill shortages being addressed are critical to the requirements of the emerging Smart Economy in Ireland.” Professor Willie Golden, Dean of the College of Business, Public Policy and Law, NUI Galway, said: “This programme has been designed to meet the needs of the marketplace by providing graduates with knowledge of both finance and information systems, something which is actively sought by employers in the marketplace.”   Boost to Green Economy – MSc Sustainable Resource Management: Policy and Practice Implementing correct policies to grow Ireland’s green economy will be given an important boost with the launch of the first MSc in Sustainable Resource Management: Policy and Practice delivered jointly by the Strategic Alliance Partners. This programme has been developed in response to market demand for graduates with technical knowledge of the environmental sector plus an understanding of the range of policies currently implemented in Ireland and elsewhere which will enhance our performance in advancing our green economy. This will allow us to meet the crucial goals of reducing our reliance on imported fuels, creating additional employment, and ensuring compliance with EU directives. Strongly research led, the programme is unique in that it combines the expertise of both institutions and is geared to the requirements of key industry and government organisations. UL offers modules on material flow analysis and urban sustainability, while NUI Galway offers modules on landscape and habitat conservation. Speaking of the MSc Sustainable Resource Management: Policy and Practice, Brian Keville, Company Director and Senior Environmental Consultant, McCarthy Keville O'Sullivan Ltd, who himself studied Environmental Science at NUI Galway, said: “This new MSC will give graduates a detailed insight into the natural and built environment and the all-important interactions between both, across a wide variety of important subject areas that are increasing relevant in commercial, conservation, industrial and public policy fields. Many opportunities exist within the greening of the economy as governments, NGOs and companies work to meet environmental targets set within international agreements. Other opportunities exist to introduce green technologies and management strategies into Ireland, which have been successful in other EU states. Graduates will acquire translational and multidisciplinary skills in the environmental entrepreneurship and sustainability sector enabling them to take on managerial roles within an industrial / corporate setting, or within a regulatory body or consultancy firm.  Careers such as Sustainability Officers, Ecological Consultants, and Environmental Advisors exist within public and private sectors in Ireland and elsewhere. In addition, there may be opportunities for further research leading to the degree of PhD. Professor Richard Moles of UL explains the importance of the establishment of a new programme: “This programme brings together in one programme of study technical understanding, policy options available, and best practice in Ireland and elsewhere. It provides participants with the skills, knowledge and experience that are needed to pursue successful careers in managing environmental resources sustainably, and in finding novel ways to grow our green economy to reduce the need for expensive imports and create additional jobs at home.” Established in 2010, the NUI Galway - UL Strategic Alliance has established a number of joint programmes and shared modules which provide students with a unique opportunity to gain access to the research and teaching two of Ireland’s leading institutions. For further information about the NUI Galway – UL Strategic Alliance go to www.nuig-ulalliance.ie Course Applications are online at www.graduateschool.ul.iet ENDS

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NUI Galway Hosts the Irish Colloquium of the International Geographical Union

NUI Galway Hosts the Irish Colloquium of the International Geographical Union-image

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The School of Geography and Archaeology at NUI Galway will host the 19th Annual Colloquium of the Commission on the Sustainability of Rural Systems (CSRS) of the International Geographical Union. This is the first colloquium of this Commission to take place in Ireland and will run from 1 to 7 August in the IT Building, NUI Galway. The Colloquium entitled The Sustainability of Rural Systems: Local and Global Challenges and Opportunities will see delegates travelling from 16 countries to present over 40 papers on the themes of Agriculture; Tourism; Population; Local Governance and Rural Development; Innovative forms of Employment; Rural Society and Alternative Energy. Rural systems are defined as including environment, society, economy and culture and the inter-relations between them. These systems are increasingly subject to global influences which are characteristic of the contemporary age. The local remains important as a context for the working out of processes associated with globalisation. The colloquium will allow delegates to explore these changes with fieldtrips to Cois Fharraige, south Galway, the Burren, and south and west Mayo. Keynote speakers for the colloquium will include: Professor Guy Robinson, University of South Australia; Professor Ana Maria Bicalho, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Professor Lucette Laurens, University of Montpellier 3, France; Professor Michael Woods, University of Aberystwyth, Wales; and Professor Tony Sorenson, University of New England, New South Wales, Australia. Conference Chair and NUI Galway Lecturer, Dr Mary Cawley, said: “It is an honour to have been invited to host the 19th Annual Colloquium of the CSRS at NUI Galway. Our tradition of geographical research on rural issues and sustainability and our location in a rural environment make the University a particularly appropriate meeting place. We look forward to discussion and sharing research findings with our international colleagues during the paper sessions and the fieldtrips.” The International Geographical Union represents academic geographers internationally with their activities organised under the remit of commissions. The Commission on the Sustainability of Rural Systems was established in 1992 and meets annually in a different country. For further information on the colloquium contact Dr Mary Cawley at mary.cawley@nuigalway.ie.   ENDS 

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Research into Risks to Coastal Communities

Research into Risks to Coastal Communities-image

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

40km Stretch of Mayo Coastline Plays Vital Role in European Project A 40km stretch of the Mayo coastline is playing a vital role in a European research project investigating the threats posed to coastal regions by climate change. Initial findings regarding the area, from Carrowinskey to Newport, will be shared with European experts involved in the project in Westport on Thursday, 21 July. The event will be hosted by the Irish partners, NUI Galway, Mayo County Council and Údarás na Gaeltachta, and examine the extent to which development planning is addressing coastal risk. This particular stretch of Mayo coastline was chosen as it is a microcosm of the Irish western seaboard, with open and sheltered bays, tidal flats, estuaries, dunes and urban areas along the relatively small geographic area. The Atlantic Network for Coastal Risk Management (ANCORIM ) project is focusing on three key issues of erosion, water quality and planning. The €1.9 million initiative is funded by the EU and aims to bridge the gap between climate change scientists and coastal zone decision-makers. “There is concern over the extent to which natural risks are taken into consideration in planning decisions,” commented Dr Kevin Lynch of NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute, who is spearheading Irish participation in the project. “What we are finding is that the public are assuming there is safety from risk when granted planning permission by local authorities, but that is not necessarily the case.” Risks linked to climate change include flooding, strong winds, coastal erosion, water pollution and forest fires. The ANCORIM project hopes to support coastal managers and planners in methods for anticipating such risks and planning for unforeseen natural events. Commenting on this NUI Galway’s Professor Micheal Ó Cinnéide urged planning authorities to have due regard for risk in their decision-making and pointed out that ANCORIM was preparing an inventory of scientific resources and handbooks to facilitate this process.   Led by the region of Aquitaine in southwest France, the project is supported by the Europe Union in the framework of the INTERREG IVB programme - Atlantic Space: Investing in Our Common Future. Three years of research in Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal will culminate and the publication of full findings at a conference planned for Spring 2012.   -ENDS- 

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Ericsson Offers Scholarships to Information Technology Students at NUI Galway

Ericsson Offers Scholarships to Information Technology Students at NUI Galway-image

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Industry and academia work together to meet current and future skills requirements NUI Galway is delighted to announce an exciting initiative with the Ericsson R&D Centre in Athlone. The Discipline of Information Technology offers a one-year Higher Diploma and a two-year Masters in Software Design and Development to graduates from diverse disciplines. In conjunction with these programmes, Ericsson will offer a number of scholarships to second year MSc students. The scholarships will comprise of a contribution towards fees plus a paid internship during which students will work on a supervised research or development activity at the Ericsson R&D Centre in Athlone. A unique initiative within IT at NUI Galway, this will be of particular relevance to current or recent graduates from any discipline interested in pursuing a 4th level qualification in Software with well defined career prospects. Dr Hugh Melvin, of the Discipline of Information Technology at NUI Galway, commented that: “Both these conversion courses offer students from diverse disciplines, career opportunities in the broad, vibrant and evolving software sector. We are delighted with this Ericsson sponsorship and it shows how industry and academia can work together to meet current and future skills requirements. We are in discussions with other industry partners and hope to make further such announcements.” Mr Michael Gallagher, CEO of Ericsson in Ireland, described the initiative as: “Part of a multi-faceted commitment from Ericsson to help the growth of Ireland’s knowledge economy. Software Engineering is an area in which this country has the capacity to excel and in which the opportunities are growing exponentially.” The Ericsson R&D Centre in Athlone employs over 700 software and systems engineers providing OSS (Operations Support Systems) for Network Management to Telecom Network Operators using advanced mediation, data management and visualization techniques. The Ericsson site in Athlone has global responsibility for end-to-end design, development, release and support of these applications. For further details regarding this announcement or the above postgraduate courses in IT at NUI Galway, please contact Dr Hugh Melvin (hugh.melvin@nuigalway.ie) or Dr Michael Schukat (michael.schukat@nuigalway.ie)   ENDS 

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Student Volunteering in Ireland Featured at European Parliament Launch

Student Volunteering in Ireland Featured at European Parliament Launch-image

Monday, 18 July 2011

Irish MEP, Marian Harkin and French MEP, Cécile Levieil jointly hosted an exhibition featuring student volunteers from across Irish Higher Education title We Volunteer!.The week-long exhibition took place from 10 to 16 July, in celebration of the European Year of Volunteering 2011. The official launch took place on Tuesday, 12 July, in the European Parliament Brussels and was attended by dignitaries from across the EU Parliament and the EU Commission.  The We Volunteer! photographic exhibition of student volunteering recognises the extent and diversity of student commitment to communities with diverse organisations ranging from the Christina Noble Foundation in Vietnam, to Chrysalis Community Drug Project in Dublin, from the Galway Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to community enterprise in Belfast, from peer mentoring programmes in Limerick and Cork to Karate coaching in Newry. The exhibition showcases the work of student volunteers from 20 Higher Education Institutions across Ireland. We Volunteer! is sponsored by Campus Engage, the national network for the promotion of civic engagement in Irish higher education. The exhibition featured NUI Galway student Nicola Brassil from Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare and GMIT student Fiachra McInerney from Raheen, Limerick. Lorraine Tansey, Student Volunteer Coordinator at NUI Galway, said: “This collaborative exhibition is a great opportunity to visually demonstrate how student volunteers get involved and make a commitment to bring about change.  Bringing the exhibition and featured students to Brussels is an important step in the recognition and celebration of student volunteering in Galway and beyond.”  Dermot O’Donovan, Head of GMIT Letterfrack, says: “For the past three years, as part of the student work placement programme, students from GMIT Letterfrack have been responsible for the establishment of a woodwork training facility in Maamba in Zambia. This centre was established with the aim of providing training for young adults from the region in order to provide them with skills to develop sustainable enterprises and opportunities for work. The project has grown in strength and has been co-ordinated in GMIT Letterfrack by Dr Patrick Tobin, and supported by the Sisters of Charity based in Maamba. We were delighted to be part of this We Volunteer! exhibition.” NUI Galway and GMIT recently announced a new strategic partnership to serve the educational, social and economic needs of their students and the wider regional, national and international communities. The agreement provides for collaborative opportunities in teaching and learning, research, entrepreneurship, regional development, commercialisation, programme design, distance education, and work-based learning. To learn more about the exhibition, to upload your volunteer story or to host the touring exhibition throughout 2011, visit www.wevolunteer.ie or email wevolunteer@campusengage.ie.   ENDS

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Researchers Mimic Nature to Create a ‘Bio-Inspired Brain’ for Robots

Researchers Mimic Nature to Create a ‘Bio-Inspired Brain’ for Robots-image

Monday, 18 July 2011

A group of engineers at NUI Galway and the University of Ulster are developing bio-inspired integrated circuit technology which mimics the neuron structure and operation of the brain. One key goal of the research is the application of the electronic neural device, called a hardware spiking neural network, to the control of autonomous robots which can operate independently in remote, unsupervised environments, such as remote search and rescue applications, and in space exploration. According to Dr Fearghal Morgan, Director of the Bio-Inspired Electronics and Reconfigurable Computing (BIRC) research group, at NUI Galway: “Electronic neurons, implemented using silicon integrated circuit technology, cannot exactly replicate the complexity of neurons found in the human brain, or the massive number of connections between neurons. However, inspired by the operation and structure of the brain, we have successfully developed a hardware spiking neural network and have used this device for robotics control. The electronic device interprets the state of the robot’s environment through signals received from sensing devices such as cameras and ultrasonic sensors, which act as the eyes and ears of the robot. The neural network then modifies the behaviour of the robot accordingly, by sending signals to the robot’s limbs to enable activity such as walking, grasping and obstacle avoidance.” Dr Morgan explains: “Our research is focussed on mimicking evolution in nature. The latest hardware neural network currently in development will contain thousands of small electronic neuron-like devices which interoperate concurrently, in a similar way to neurons in the biological brain. The device can be trained to perform a particular function, and can be retrained many times for various applications. The training process resembles the training of the brain, by making, strengthening and weakening the links between neurons and defining the conditions which cause a neuron to fire, sending signals to all of the attached neurons. As in the brain, the collection of interconnected neurons makes decisions on incoming data to cause an action in the controlled system.” “Until now, the robotics arena has focused on electronic controllers which incorporate one or more microprocessors, which typically execute instructions in sequence and, while performing tasks quickly, are limited by the instruction processing speed. Power is also a consideration. While the human brain on average only requires 10 watts of power, a typical PC requires 300 watts. We believe that a small embedded hardware neural network device has the potential to perform effective robotics control, at low power, while also incorporating fault detection and self-repair behaviour. Our aim is to develop a robust, intelligent hardware neural network robotics controller which can autonomously maintain robot behaviour, even when its environment changes or a fault occurs within the robotics system.” Dr Jim Harkin, from the School of Computing and Intelligent Systems, University of Ulster (Magee Campus), comments: “The constant miniaturisation of silicon technology to increase performance introduces inherent reliability issues which must be overcome. Ultimately, the hardware neural network or robot ‘brain’ will be able to detect and overcome electronic faults that occur within itself, and continue to function effectively without human intervention.” The research project is supported by Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET), the International Centre for Graduate Education in Micro- and Nano-Engineering (ICGEE), the Xilinx University Programme, the University of Ulster’s Vice Chancellor’s Research Scholarship, and the SFI National Access Programme.   ENDS

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