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February NUI Galway Science Initiatives Awarded €400,000 for Public Engagement and Education
NUI Galway Science Initiatives Awarded €400,000 for Public Engagement and Education
Four NUI Galway based programmes will engage 100,000 members of the Irish public with science in 2019
Four NUI Galway public engagement and education initiatives have been awarded funding of more than €400,000 through Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme, to fund projects dedicated to educating and engaging with 100,000 members of the public in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in 2019. The funding awards were announced by Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, as part of a national investment of €3.6 million.
NUI Galway Funded Projects
Cell EXPLORERS (€298,778 funding award)
Cell EXPLORERS is a successful science education and public engagement programme delivering STEM activities regionally and nationally, led by Dr Muriel Grenon. Originally developed in NUI Galway, it uses a unique model for sustainable science public engagement in 13 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across Ireland, including both universities and institutes of technology. The programme uses hands-on activities facilitated by local scientist volunteers to engage the public in the importance of science in society through a diverse set of activities, including school visits and science festival workshops. Since its creation, 1,200 enthusiastic scientists have directly reached 32,000 members of the public. This award will fund the activities delivered by the national network made of 10 existing and three novel HEI partner teams located in Connacht, Munster, Leinster and Ulster. These Cell EXPLORERS teams will run primary and secondary school visits in their geographical areas, reaching 15 counties nationally, including seven of the nine counties with low levels of SFI-funded STEM interventions. This award will allow more children to work as real scientists in Irish classrooms under the mentorship of local, approachable and inspirational science role models. More information about this programme can be found at www.cellexplorers.com.
CÚRAM ‘Strength in Science’ Project (€47,650 funding award)
CÚRAM researchers are teaming up with science teachers, PE teachers and fitness instructors to develop cross-curricular resources to increase secondary students’ interest in both learning science and participating in exercise. CÚRAM is the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices. Physical inactivity is one of the leading risk factors for poor health and is now identified by the World Health Organization as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. In Ireland, physical inactivity is thought to be responsible for 8.8% of the burden of disease from coronary artery disease, and 10.9% of type 2 diabetes.
Only 8% of female and 12% of male secondary students in Ireland receive the Department of Education and Skills recommended 60 minutes of Physical Education (PE) per week. Time pressure due to school work was the most common reason cited for the allocation of too little PE during school hours. By strongly linking PE lessons to the science curriculum, educators will hopefully not feel as if the time dedicated to PE was taking away from preparing for exams. Four lesson plan kits will be developed that are linked to the biology, physics and PE curricula. The kits will integrate CÚRAM research with the scientific effects of exercise on different areas of the body to prevent diseases such as vascular disease, stroke, neurodegenerative disorders and osteoporosis. Each kit will include a lesson plan for teachers, an 8 to 10-minute video and a flyer covering the topic for students to share with family members. The kits are planned to be launched in the autumn of 2019. Secondary schools in the Galway or Dublin area interested in getting involved in the project should contact firstname.lastname@example.org and more information is available at www.curam.ie.
Bright Club (€49,797 funding award)
Bright Club is a variety show with a twist. Academic researchers become comedians for one night, using comedy to talk about their research. The researchers from science, engineering, mathematics, social science, and the humanities get training in humour as communication, before joining actual comedians on stage in front of the public to talk about their research in an informal pub setting. Bright Club has been running across Ireland for four years with 50 live events and 150 academics trained, spearheaded by Dr Jessamyn Fairfield in the School of Physics at NUI Galway. More information at www.brightclub.ie.
ReelLIFE SCIENCE (€12,000 funding award)
ReelLIFE SCIENCE is a science video competition which, since being launched in 2013 by Dr Enda O’Connell, has engaged thousands of science enthusiasts in more than 350 primary schools, secondary schools and community groups around Ireland. Participants are challenged to produce a short, entertaining and educational STEM video for the public, while developing their communication and digital skills. The best videos win €1,000 for their school or group and are screened at the Galway Science and Technology Festival in NUI Galway every year. Closing date for 2019 entries is Friday, 18 October and more information can be found at www.reellifescience.com.
Speaking about the funded projects, Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “NUI Galway is committed to delivering extensive public outreach and education programmes in STEM activities. For several years now, our researchers from CÚRAM, ReelLIFE SCIENCE, Cell EXPLORERS and Bright Club have provided these programmes to students, teachers and the wider public throughout Ireland to encourage interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in a fun and engaging way, while highlighting the importance of STEM in addressing societal challenges. These funding awards from Science Foundation Ireland is testament to the level of excellence in NUI Galway’s public engagement initiatives to inspire the next generation of STEM scientists.”
Speaking about the Programme, Interim Director of Science for Society at Science Foundation Ireland, Margie McCarthy, said: “The SFI Discover Programme encourages people from all walks of life to become informed about, and engaged with, STEM. Through SFI Discover we harness the creativity of diverse engagement initiatives to motivate more people to explore STEM in meaningful ways, and we aspire to create a brighter future for Ireland together. The projects being announced are very exciting and I look forward to working with them to inspire our future scientists, engineers and innovators.”
Science Foundation Ireland has invested in over 240 public engagement projects through the Discover Programme since 2013. This year’s funded initiatives are estimated to reach over two million people. 41 diverse initiatives will be supported by this year’s programme, with successful awardees being carefully selected through international peer-review.