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SFI Discover Programme awards six UCD projects funding to inspire public to engage with STEM

Posted 28 February, 2024

Elaine Quinn, UCD Conway Institute, Dr Sara Dakir, UCD, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director Science for Society, SFI, and Lorna Donlon, artist Photo: Jason Clarke

Six UCD projects have been funded through the SFI Discover Programme, which seeks to create greater public awareness of the impact of STEM on everyday life as well as encourage dialogue and diversity in STEM-related disciplines.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, and Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, announced a €5 million investment in 38 projects across Ireland. 

“These initiatives, involving the general public and our communities across primary, secondary and third-level education, are essential to fostering curiosity about science, technology, engineering and maths,” said Minister Harris. 

“This investment will help to broaden participation in STEM – both geographically and amongst less represented voices – and inspire all generations to deepen their understanding of what learnings, studies and careers in these fields entails. In turn, the next generation, in particular, will be better engaged and empowered to share their ideas and solutions to societal challenges.”

In relation to those projects co-funded by the Department of Education, Minister Foley said: “The Department of Education is delighted to collaborate once again with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science through the SFI Discover Programme. 

“STEM subjects encourage learners’ innate curiosity about how the world works, and I’m confident that support of these 38 initiatives will inspire the students involved to continue their studies in this area. I wish all of the project teams every success in their work over the coming months.”

The UCD projects funded through the SFI Discover Programme include:

Using the latest research evidence in cognitive and social psychology, alongside best practices in educational intervention, this project provides training for 6th class learners, developing their knowledge of engineering skills and careers and debunking engineer stereotypes. It aims to encourage more children, across diverse backgrounds, to pursue engineering subjects and engineering careers.

  • Dr Eadaoin Mc Kiernan, UCD School of Medicine, Systems Biology Ireland (SBI) - Let’s chat medicine: An innovative PEI cycle in health-related research.

This project aims to revolutionise the way Personalised Medicine is communicated to the public. The programme will use SBI’s research knowledge to engage with young people and co-create Personalised Medicine stories with impact, using educational tools, digital media, and both traditional and non-traditional arts as methods for communication. 

Blending STEM with the arts and humanities and utilising immersive technology alongside P4C (Philosophy for Children) and storytelling method, this project aims to bridge the gender gap in computer science and cyber security. It will provide role models who ignite ambition in girls, partner with teachers, teacher educators and government and industry partners to provide sustained support and enhance STEM educators’ skills.  It aims to empower young girls to pursue careers in computer science and cybersecurity with confidence and belief in their abilities and inspire the next generation of STEM women leaders in Ireland and beyond.

Research should be shaped by the many diverse voices in Ireland today. This project will engage women and girls from minority communities in health research, establishing connections between communities and researchers. It will build trust in an open, equitable and accessible way through community-based workshops involving textiles, and co-creation of an exhibition about these connections, curated by artist Lorna Donlon.

  • Michael Golden, I-Form - Taiscéalaí 2.0: 3D Printing and Sustainability for Primary Schools.

Taiscéalaí – coming from the Irish word for ‘explorer’ – is an initiative which expands the reach and improves the quality of 3D printing education across Ireland at the primary school level. This is a continuation of an existing partnership between I-Form, Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR), Creative Spark and Inspire3D. Through co-creation workshops with teachers, the project developed a 3D Printing Teacher’s Guide and Student Workbook and schools involved received a 3D printer. The project team will now expand the scope through increased engagement with new schools and younger age groups. 

Dublin Maker is a free, family friendly, community run event, taking the form of a “show and tell” experience where inventors/makers sourced through an open call, showcase their creations in a carnival atmosphere. Makers range from tech enthusiasts to crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, artists, science clubs, students, authors, and commercial exhibitors. Dublin Maker’s mission is to entertain, inform and connect the makers of Ireland, while inspiring the next generation of Ireland’s makers and inventors.

Welcoming the latest funding investment, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director, Science for Society at SFI said its Discover Programme was a key part of its education and public engagement strategy. 

“Increasing engagement among less represented voices in STEM is vital to providing the diverse talent needed to take on societal challenges and to shape our future in Ireland.” 

Adding: “SFI is passionate about removing barriers to participation in STEM and providing learners with opportunities to engage. I look forward to seeing the achievements of these projects over the coming months.”

For more information on the SFI Discover Programme (opens in a new window)visit here.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations (with materials from Emma Loughney, UCD Research and Innovation)