Uncovering the fun side of science through “hands-on learning” initiatives has now been proven to translate into young people going on to third level science and technology – the graduates who will sustain and enhance future economic growth.
This is according to Galway East Fianna Fáil TD Noel Treacy who launched the 2010 FIRST LEGO League Robotics Challenge in the Galway Education Centre (GEC ). He was deputising for Tanaiste and Education Minister Mary Coughlan TD,.
“The whole purpose of events such as the Robotics Challenge is to increase participation of young people in science, research and engineering and to inculcate in them the joy of studying areas like science,” said Deputy Treacy.
“The fact that three students from one class who took part in previous robotics championships are now studying robotics engineering is the proof that showing youngsters that science can be fun, actually translates into pupils going into science and engineering courses. It shows that events like this, and the Galway Science and Technology Festival, do work in inspiring young people,” he said.
Now in its fourth year in Ireland, the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology ) LEGO League Robotics is open to 9 to 16 year-olds and will include entries from 26 teams nationwide.
The competition has 140,000 participants from 56 countries around the globe. Students will be required write a programme to control every move of their robots as the robots complete a set series of tasks in a set period of time. The students must also prepare a presentation detailing their research, their teamwork and their proposed solution.
With this year’s focus on biomedical engineering, the global robotics programme aims to encourage youngsters to find innovative ways to propose and implement a solution to a real world issue such as how to repair injuries or overcome genetic predispositions.
Speaking at the launch function the Mayor of Galway City, Councillor Michael Crowe, said the Galway Education Centre’s continued focus on areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics had made it a “conduit” between industry and education.
“Projects such as the Medtronic Scientist of the Future, the Medtronic Healthy Living and the FIRST LEGO League have highlighted the value of industry and education working in co-operation to the benefit of students in schools,” remarked Mayor Crowe, who said events such as the robotics challenge could not succeed without sponsors such as the Medtronic Foundation and SAP
The robotics challenge, the Mayor continued, was also a direct result of Galway East TD Noel Treacy’s founding of the Galway Science and Technology Festival of which he is the Patron. This year the Science and Technology Festival runs from November 7 to 21, with the Festival Exhibition at NUI, Galway to be opened by European Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn on November 21.
Deputy Treacy commended the support of local sponsors Medtronic and SAP as “corporate social responsibility at its very best”. “Their corporate support and mentoring is corporate social responsibility at its best, where students are provided with opportunities they would not otherwise have,” remarked TD Treacy.
Education Centre Director Bernard Kirk said that other programmes such as the T4 Technology Subjects Support Service – which was hosted in Galway Education Centre – had contributed to the continued growth in the number of students studying technology.
“The number of students taking Technology for the Leaving Certificate has increased by 27 per cent and 200,000 students study technology subjects in over 600 second level schools throughout the country. The Galway Education Centre is happy to facilitate this ongoing growth and development,” commented Mr Kirk.
Students from 26 teams will compete in the FIRST LEGO League Regional Tournament which takes place in the Radisson Hotel Galway on January 8 2011.
Previous Galway winners include students from Colaiste na Coiribe – who went on to represent Ireland at the FIRST LEGO League World Festival which took place in Atlanta, Georgia last April.
Those in attendance at the launch, who included the Chairman of the Galway Science and Technology Festival Tom Hyland, were welcomed to the Education Centre by Chairperson Cait Ni Mhaille.