The opportunity to explore the science of Chernobyl in Athlone Library, space exploration at the Rocketeers Roadshow with Simon Watt and Harry Potter science were just some of the informative and exciting events which took place during the annual Midlands Science Festival last week.
An enlightening evening event took place within the surrounds of Athlone Library as the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster was afforded due exploration.
The radiation exposure to the Irish population, as a result of the Chernobyl accident (April 1986 ), has been estimated based on the large number of foodstuffs and environmental samples measured at the time. It was calculated that Chernobyl resulted in an approximate three per cent increase in radiation exposure to the average Irish person in the twelve months following the accident.
Science teacher, writer and birdwatcher, Rory Duffy, explored the science of Chernobyl and his recent visit to the site. The discussion was moderated by toxicologist, Dr Craig Slattery of UCD and was joined by Prof Gillian O’Brien of John Moores University Liverpool. Gillian has a special interest in dark tourism and the human fascination with disaster sites.
Every year during Science Week and indeed throughout the rest of the year, the Midlands Science team endeavour to make science exciting for everyone by featuring lively, high profile talks, hands-on activities and fascinating demonstrations where the extraordinary properties of science, technology, engineering, and math collide!
“A real understanding of science involves whole-life learning beyond the confines of the classroom so I was delighted to participate in this year’s Midlands Science Festival which brings science out into the wider local community. Events like these provide unique opportunities to explore a whole range of subjects and themes with people of all ages, helping to improve public engagement and ideally leading to an increased uptake in STEM education courses.
“We need to really focus on supporting our young people in developing their core science and technology skills, both within and outside of the science lab. We need to work in collaboration with partners to raise awareness and encourage and influence participation in STEM and the annual Midlands Science Festival is an ideal way to increase our efforts to do this,” Rory remarked.
Meanwhile, Jackie Gorman, Director of the Midlands Science Festival, acknowledged the support provided by Science Foundation Ireland and a number of key partnerships which allowed for numerous science events to take place in the Midlands region.
“We were delighted to again be working with partners such as the local heritage offices, companies, schools and libraries. Most of the event tickets were sold in advance so it was fantastic to witness the excitement that people anticipated. As Hermione Granger said ‘when in doubt, go to the library’. We hope that people enjoyed the events in their local area and we are already looking forward to an even bigger Science Week in the Midlands next year,” Jackie commented.
The festival brings sciences out into the cultural mainstream in a more accessible, creative and impactful way. It was a wonderful opportunity for science enthusiasts to see what’s new and innovative in the world of science and technology. The large public turnout again this year showed there is a great appetite for this type of regional educational event and one of the most encouraging factors was the diversity of the audiences attracted during the week.
“The Midlands Science Festival itself aims to engage and encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to become leaders of tomorrow. It encourages experimentation and collaboration, inspiring students to solve real-world problems. We work to promote science throughout the year so keep an eye out for what we have coming next!,” Jackie concluded.