Science Week 2014 took place in the South East from the 9th-14th November 2014 as the Robert Boyle Science Festival. Noted scientist and philosopher Robert Boyle was born in Lismore, Co Waterford and the festival is named in his honour. Science Week is co-ordinated nationally by SFI Discover Programme. Local events were coordinated by Calmast, the award winning STEM centre at WIT. Over 50 events took place in Lismore, New Ross, Dungarvan and in Waterford City itself. It is currently estimated that almost 5000 participated in the events offered during the week.
Activities were organised for three key groups- primary students, secondary students and members of the general public. The week was launched with a special family science day at Lismore Heritage Centre. This attracted hundreds of members of the general public to Boyle’s birth-town to take part in chemistry, biology, physics and maths related activities. There were also a number of science shows provided by Calmast and the London Science Museum.
For primary school children, the week began with the London Science Museum visiting Waterford IT. Their first show of the week was the electrifying “Danger! High Voltage!” which explored the science behind electricity and magnetism in an accessible way. Over the course of the day, almost 600 students learned about electrical charge, static electricity and much more through this informative and exciting show. For secondary school students Science Week began with an investigation into Dynamic DNA with Dr Cas Kramer, University of Leicester. Dr Kramer used a light-hearted approach to explore the ideas behind the double helix and introduced students to an interactive experiment on genetics. Over 100 secondary school students participated in this activity in WIT and also in New Ross Library.
Tuesday’s activities for primary school students included a lesson in how to “Think Differently” with Paul McRory. Paul’s extravagant science show explored forces with a number of key interactive demonstrations. Once again, the auditorium was packed out with almost 200 participants for the primary schools show in the morning. Paul returned to the stage in the afternoon to speak to a further 400 secondary school students in more detail about the science behind his exciting demonstrations. Also taking place on Tuesday was the first “Discovering DNA” workshop run by Calmast’s Brendan Kennedy which introduced 5th & 6th class students to the human cell, DNA and genetics. The Robert Boyle Science Festival returned to Lismore on Tuesday with the Science Museum’s “Danger! High Voltage!” show. Almost 400 primary students from the surrounding towns and villages participated in these shows.
Wednesday began at WIT with “The Boyle Show.” This show introduced primary school students to the legacy of Robert Boyle. The historical context and informative demonstrations on pressure, volume and acids and bases were performed by Calmast’s Eoin Gill in costume as the famous scientist. 200 primary school students participated in this show. The Science Museum were once again on tour on Wednesday and performed to full houses at the Dungarvan Town Hall Theatre- almost 500 primary school students.
Thursday featured a science show that introduced primary students to simple fundamentals of science and also helped develop deeper understanding of junior certificate science. Eoin Gill’s “FUNdamentals of Science” was a comprehensive show taking in heat and energy, pressure and volume, forces and much more using exciting demonstrations including bottle rockets, vacuum chambers and liquid nitrogen.
The Science Museum’s tour of the South-East continued apace on Thursday with a visit to New Ross to engage over 700 students with their “Danger! High Voltage!” show. Back at WIT, there were more Discovering DNA Workshops as well as a number of other events. Dr Gabriel Gallagher a lecturer in WIT’s School of Science & Computing provided an introductory session on Quantum Mechanics for over 100 senior cycle physics students. Brendan Jackman and Frank Walsh, lecturers and researchers at WIT’s Automotive Control Group introduced 5th year students to the computing and network technology behind automobiles.
Friday saw Calmast’s Dr Sheila Donegan involving several classes in a dynamic workshop on the “Science of Colour” and its universal presence throughout chemistry, biology and physics. Also taking place on Friday was the return of the Science Museum to WIT for their hugely popular “Bubble Show” for primary students. Over 500 students stepped through the doors of WIT for activities on the Friday of Science Week.
Evening events were another important facet of the festival. A variety of events aimed at different interests and audiences were provided throughout the week. On Monday 10th Dr Cas Kramer of University of Leicester gave an extensive talk on the recent revolutionary discovery of the remains of King Richard III and how they were identified using cross-disciplinary methods involving genetics, genealogy and archaeology. Tuesday 11th featured an evening performance of the Science Museum’s “Danger! High Voltage!” for family audiences and had a packed audience. The Science Museum then performed their “Bubble Show” on Wednesday 12th to a similarly huge crowd. On Thursday 13th Dr Cormac O Raifeartaigh provided an insight into several working theories of the Big Bang, including a previously untranslated one by Einstein.
STEAMdream was present throughout the week in the WIT Atrium. This digital media experience combined Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics in a unique way. Using the new technology of projection mapping this novel exhibition touched upon scientific ideas and was a huge draw for crowds of students, staff and members of the public throughout the week. This installation was developed initially as part of Spraoi at Garter Lane Arts Centre but was further evolved by its creators for Science Week 2014 by Colm Dunphy (Digital Media), Paddy Murray, PJ Walsh & Jason Berry (Applied Robotics), Eoghan Kinnane (Educational Technology) and Calmast.
The Robert Boyle Science Festival is supported by SFI Discover Programme, GSK and Centra. The week would not be possible without the support of everyone in Estates and the School of Science Office for their tireless support and effort.