BY DECLAN VARLEY
Four NUI Galway public engagement and education initiatives have been awarded funding of more than €250,000 through the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme.
The initiatives, which will improve public understanding of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM ) in the West of Ireland and across the country, will engage over 40,000 members of the public in 2017.
‘ Cell EXPLORERS’ is a science education and public engagement programme delivering STEM activities regionally and nationally, led by Dr Muriel Grenon. It uses a unique model, originally developed in NUI Galway, for sustainable science public engagement in ten Universities and Institutes of Technology around Ireland.
The programme uses hands-on activities and local scientists to engage the public in the importance of science in society with a diverse set of activities, including school visits and science festival workshops. More information can be found at www.cellexplorers.com
‘ Genetic Testing: Engaging the West of Ireland’ aims to engage students and members of the public in the West of Ireland in reflection and conversation about genetics and genetic testing. It combines an exhibition on genetics, ethics and society with activities on genetic testing with secondary school students, women and other interested groups. The project will run throughout 2017, led by Dr Heike Felzmann in the Centre of Bioethical Research and Analysis at NUI Galway.
‘ Bright Club’ is a variety show with a twist. Academic researchers become comedians for one night, using humour to talk about their research. The researchers from science, engineering, social science, and the humanities get training in humour as communication, before joining actual comedians on stage in front of the public. The night has been running across Ireland for two years, spearheaded by Dr Jessamyn Fairfield in the School of Physics at NUI Galway.
‘ ReelLIFE SCIENCE’ is a nationwide video competition for primary schools, secondary schools and community groups which, since being launched in 2013 by NUI Galway’s Dr Enda O’Connell, has enabled thousands of students across Ireland to engage with STEM by communicating a topic (e.g. ‘Science and Me’, ‘How Things Work’ and ‘Science in Space’ ) via a three-minute video. The videos are screened at the Galway Science and Technology Festival each year and are available online at www.reellifescience.com
Nationally, a total of 120 applications were received by Science Foundation Ireland for Discover Programme funding, and 44 initiatives were selected through rigorous international peer-review for a combined investment of €2.8 million.
Speaking at the announcement event in Kilmainham Hospital, Director of Strategy and Communications for Science Foundation Ireland, Dr Ruth Freeman, said: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support these important education and public engagement programmes, which will engage and inspire people in the West of Ireland with the endless possibilities of science, technology, engineering and maths. Activities like these can ignite a passion for discovery and, for some, can also be a first-step in exploring a future career in these exciting subject areas.”