Funding announced to create clusters across the South East to promote STEM

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 Pictured during Science Week with WIT (Waterford Institute of Technology) by Calmast. Pictured during the Bubble show with the London Science Museum at The Theatre Royal, Waterford City. Picture: Patrick Browne

Pictured during Science Week with WIT (Waterford Institute of Technology) by Calmast. Pictured during the Bubble show with the London Science Museum at The Theatre Royal, Waterford City. Picture: Patrick Browne

South east gets €150,000 share of €5m Government investment in STEM through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Discover Programme

Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) has been awarded €150,000 to create clusters across the South East to promote STEM locally with WIT acting as the supporting hub through its STEM engagement centre Calmast.

SFI Discover Programme

Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, has announced a national investment of €5 million to fund projects dedicated to educating and engaging the public in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Discover Programme.

The SFI Discover Programme provides funding for projects that inspire and guide the best in STEM education and public engagement in Ireland. It aims to increase the public’s engagement with STEM and to develop a more scientifically informed and involved society. A wide range of organisations will be supported to bring STEM to new audiences. All successful awardees are carefully selected, following robust international peer-review.

Critical to economic development

“The areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) are critical for the economic development of the region and for 21st Century citizenship,” says Dr Sheila Donegan co-founder and director of Waterford Institute of Technology’s STEM engagement centre Calmast.

“These clusters will bring together interested parties such as schools, governmental bodies, industry and business and community groups.”

Based in the School of Lifelong Learning and Education at WIT Calmast leverages the resources of WIT (in particular the staff, students and venues) and works in partnership with schools, industry and business, local authorities, public bodies and non-governmental organisations to promote STEM. Calmast will provide the expertise to support these groups in developing and delivering activities across the region.

This project will be managed by Dr Cordula Weiss, who explains, “the South East region is already the leader in STEM engagement activity in the country and this initiative will provide a step-wise change in the provision of STEM engagement, contributing to economic development and improved educational attainment. It will be a model for the rest of the country to follow.”

STEM education

Science Foundation Ireland has invested in 440 public engagement projects through the Discover Programme since 2013. This year’s funded initiatives are estimated to reach over 580,000 people.

Minister Halligan welcomed the announcement, saying: “I am delighted to announce the funding of 47 STEM projects through Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme. This important work will help to inform the public about the research we fund and develop in Ireland, bringing science and technology to harder to reach audiences. We want young and old to feel confident and empowered in educating themselves on STEM issues. By encouraging the public to participate in STEM, we can increase public trust in research, build understanding on why evidence matters and stimulate more conversations about issues of relevance and concern to our citizens, such as clean water, energy and health.  Ireland continues to benefit economically from the innovative research we develop and our global reputation for research excellence is growing. We must, therefore, ensure that all young people are given equal opportunities to access STEM careers, to help us to shape a better tomorrow for all.”

Diversity fo audiences nationwide

Speaking of the Awards, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of SFI’s Science for Society Programme said: “Through the SFI Discover Programme, this important investment ensures we will reach an even wider diversity of audiences, including the Traveller community, children and parents accommodated in Direct Provision Centres, and students on the autistic spectrum. Citizen ‘Think Ins’ will also take place across the country to engage adult learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. This work is vital in addressing disinformation, such as common myths about vaccines, which are leading to an increase in outbreaks of preventable diseases such as measles. STEM literacy is an important element in promoting evidence-based information from which all citizens will benefit.”


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