Paired Science programme brings local industry and schools together

13 December was the culmination of this six week programme in which 12 schools from Waterford and Tramore participated

13 December was the culmination of this six week programme in which 12 schools from Waterford and Tramore participated

Giant Paired Science lesson with 500 students from 12 Waterford schools marked the culmination of the six-week STEMreach programme

Over 500 primary and secondary school pupils from Waterford City came together for the ‘STEMreach’ giant Paired Science lesson and awards ceremony in the Tower Hotel, Waterford on 13 December 2017.

STEMreach connects primary and secondary schools, industry, governmental bodies and community groups together with Calmast as the STEM hub for the region.

The STEMreach Paired Science was a six-week structured STEM programme bringing industry together with secondary and primary school students with Calmast, the STEM outreach centre as the connecting hub.

During the course of the six-week programme the students learn about third level education in WIT and career opportunities at local industries. Third level students assist with the Paired Science classes and talk about college life, courses available in WIT and about their own scientific research. Primary and secondary students become aware of careers in the STEM sector and are encouraged to pursue an education in this area.

Getting to grips with MS

This year the Paired Science programme focused on Multiple Sclerosis. The student pairs explored all aspects of multiple sclerosis (MS), starting with a general class about the systems of the human body (biology) and how a disease like MS affects the nervous system (medicine). They also learnt about the drugs that are used to treat MS which are manufactured by local pharma company Sanofi. The programme was supported by Science Foundation Ireland.

Giant event

December 13th was the culmination of this 6 week programme in which 12 schools from Waterford and Tramore participated.

MC for the day, Eoin Gill of Calmast, WIT’s STEM outreach centre welcomed the students and introduced John Halligan T.D. is Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development.

Minister John Halligan congratulated the 500 students made up of TY students from Mt Sion, Newtown, St Pauls, Mercy Convent and Ard Scoil na Mara , as well as their paired primary schools of Mt Sion, Christchurch, St Saviours, Newtown and Holy Cross.

Minister Halligan congratulated Ms Collete Kearney from Mt Sion, who came up with the original idea and the coordinating team from Calmast, Waterford Institute of Technology, in bringing going together industry and local primary and secondary schools. Minister Halligan explained to the students the importance of studying STEM and described to them the many career opportunities that exist in the south east.

“This programme builds a relationship between the students , Waterford Institute of Technology and one of the biggest employers in the area, making them see that they could have a career in science and a good employment opportunity when they finish college. But the programme also teaches body systems, the immune system, health and safety in labs, and acids and bases. And the students meet patients with with MS and get to see how science really can change lives for the better,“ said Collette Kearney of Mt Sion, from whom the idea of the project came.

“It is wonderful to see so many primary and secondary school students so engaged with STEM. Throughout the six week programme the hard work by all the pupils in both primary and secondary schools along with their teachers has been great to see. We are delighted to be part of this important project bringing TY students, and primary students together with Sanofi with Waterford IT being the central hub,” said Sheila Donegan of Calmast. “The programme shows the students the career pathways available and see the importance of science in transforming peoples lives”

How science can make the future better

The STEMreach giant paired science class consisted of the students working through a worksheet in which they learnt about the work of Sanofi in developing drugs to fight Multiple Scelorosis. Cian O Flynn of Sanofi described the role of Engineers in the production of pharmaceuticals, while John O Flynn of Sanofi described other careers in Sanofi. This career section was linked to a worksheet on the courses available in Waterford Institute of Technology in Science and Engineering.

The students were also addressed by two patients suffering from MS who gave them an insight in their daily life living with MS.

“It was great to see the students both the primary and secondary develop over the course of the programme,” said Cordula Weiss, of Calmast, the STEM Outreach Centre at Waterford Institute of Technology. “They worked really hard, and the growth in confidence, communication and presentation skills was clearly evident.  It was great for the students to see where science can help make the future better, and to connect all the pieces together – school, college and industry.

Future potential of Paired Science

The giant paired science class and awards ceremony created a sense of community between the participants, something that they will remember for long time.

Paired Science at once strengthens communication skills, contributes to the participants’ personal development and significantly adds to their STEM knowledge. The concept is easily transferable to other STEM areas and can be rolled out in other regions . Compared to one-off science events, the six week programme has a lasting impact on all participants and encourages them to consider STEM as an important aspect of their life.

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