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SFI Discover Programme awards funding to four UCD projects promoting STEM

Posted 14 February, 2019

A secondary school student taking part in a UCD Science Workshop Credit: UCD College of Science

Four outreach projects from University College Dublin aimed at promoting science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) have received funding from the Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover programme.

The educational activities are dedicated to raising public awareness and involvement with STEM, and will share €178,000 in funding over the next 12 months. 

Among the schemes is a project to strengthen the interest in STEM amongst young girls in post-primary schools designated as disadvantaged.

‘Girls in DEIS Schools: Changing Attitudes/Impacting Futures in STEM’ will provide teachers with the resources to foster an emotional connection amongst their students with key women in STEM.

This story-telling will be anchored in the junior cycle specifications in Science, History and English.

Principal Investigators for the project are Professor Judith Harford and Rachel Farrell, UCD School of Education, and Dr Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain, UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics

Another project to receive funding is the Community Maths Challenge, which is designed for primary-school children in areas of educational disadvantage.

Working with a mathematician, an illustrator, and their class teacher, the children will create mathematical challenges to be displayed in their local community.

The children will record the responses and construct their own solutions to the mathematical challenges, showcasing them on behalf of their community at the RDS Primary Science Fair in Dublin.

This initiative, overseen by Dr Shane Bergin as principal investigator, aims to challenge the entire community's perceptions of mathematics, showing it to be creative, social, and relevant to real-world questions. 

The Shaping Your Future: 3D Printing and Augmented Reality outreach initiative will bring 3D printing into the classroom.

The project, a joint venture between the I-Form Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR), aims to make careers in manufacturing and STEM more appealing to students.

It will combine hands-on making and innovation challenges for students, using high-tech tools, with lesson plans for teachers to take advantage of in their schools.

Suite Science is a project that uses inquiry-based learning to encourage students from disadvantaged primary schools to work together to solve problems.

Its unique selling point is that the children decide what topics they are going to learn about in a specifically designed outreach laboratory at UCD.

Suite Science is one of 11 projects to have had their SFI funding continued into this year. Overall, the Discover Programme is supporting 41 projects in 2019.

Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD congratulated the funded projects, saying it was critical to “stimulate public conversations around scientific research, and encourage young people to consider pursuing a career in [STEM].”

“To address the many global challenges we face across society and the economy, we must ensure that future generations of problem solvers have the opportunity to be inspired.

“Ireland continues to act as a hub for excellent research and the initiatives being funded through this year’s SFI Discover programme will help to generate enthusiasm for STEM and highlight the individual, societal and economic value of encouraging more people in Ireland to get involved.”

The SFI 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.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations