May 13 2016 Posted: 14:27 IST

21 new projects funded by the NUI Galway/NUI Galway Students’ Union EXPLORE innovation initiative were showcased on Thursday, 12 May 2016 in the Aula Maxima at NUI Galway.

EXPLORE is a dynamic model for innovation delivery that has been piloted by NUI Galway and NUI Galway Students’ Union since early 2012. The first scheme of its kind in Irish higher education, EXPLORE facilitates NUI Galway students and staff to work as equal partners to trial new ideas. The EXPLORE process breaks down traditional hierarchies in higher education, and enables participants to work differently with each other.

To date, EXPLORE has seed funded over 100 new projects involving more than 600
NUI Galway students and staff, and off-campus partners. EXPLORE projects have gone on to secure prestigious external funding of over €290,000.

The EXPLORE projects showcased yesterday span a diverse range of themes, including health, schools outreach, creativity, local history, mediation, digital skills and much more.

Tingyi Koh and Paul Choi, undergraduate medical students at NUI Galway, from the Do-It-Yourself Laparoscopic Trainer EXPLORE project talked at the event about how they developed a surgery simulation tool on a budget to improve the technical skills of undergraduate medical students with an interest in surgery as a career.

Dr. Ray Butler from the NUI Galway Centre for Astronomy spoke about the Loss of the Night in Galway EXPLORE project, which aims to run Galway’s first light pollution/night sky quality measurement campaign, which may help Galway become Ireland’s first ‘dark sky city’, with improved lighting ordinances.

According to Prof. Chris Curtin, Vice President for Innovation and Performance, NUI Galway,EXPLORE is an ideal vehicle for students and staff to pilot new ideas and establish a proof of concept in a collaborative, low-risk environment. We are delighted that the EXPLORE programme won the Community Awareness Award at the National Student Achievement Awards 2016. These awards recognise the contribution of individuals and groups from third level education institutions across the island of Ireland.”

NUI Galway Students’ Union President Phelim Kelly said: EXPLORE is a proven model for enabling innovation. We’re proud to have been the first higher education institution in Ireland to run a programme such as EXPLORE. It’s encouraging that two concepts central to EXPLORE, namely ‘students as partners’ and ‘students as co-creators’, feature as key principles in the new Higher Education Authority report on student engagement.” (http://www.hea.ie/sites/default/files/enhancing_student_engagement_in_decision_making_1.pdf)

The keynote address at the event was given by Dr Easkey Britton, world-renowned Irish big-wave surfer, scholar and social change-maker. Dr Britton is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Social Change at NUI Galway investigating nature-based solutions to health and wellbeing. She spoke about using one’s passion to bring about positive social change and the Waves of Freedom organisation that she co-founded (http://easkeybritton.com and http://wavesoffreedom.org/).

Amber Walsh Olesen, EXPLORE Coordinator, NUI Galway Students’ Union said: “EXPLORE makes it easy for students and staff at NUI Galway to work together and bring new ideas to life. The wider community benefits from EXPLORE as many projects are specifically developed to address societal needs, and the reach of EXPLORE projects already stretches into the thousands both on and off campus.”

ENDS

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