47 projects receive funding to improve public engagement with STEM and to support education initiatives for under-represented groups

Dublin, 4th December 2019: Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, today 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 such as Foróige, the National Concert Hall and the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge, Co. Kildare will be supported to bring STEM to new audiences, including Gaeltacht communities. Many of the projects are specifically targeted towards disadvantaged or minority groups, that may not otherwise typically engage with STEM. All successful awardees are carefully selected, following robust international peer-review.

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.”

In the South-East region, a STEM Hub is being funded to grow and improve existing STEM resources to ensure more sustained engagement, while the Cork Electronics Industry Association’s ‘Education to Industry’ programme will deliver Maths tutorials to 5th and 6th year students, as well as a Transition Year work experience programme and an electronics training programme for 2nd level teachers. The Dublin City University (DCU) Maths4All programme will also work to deliver professional development for teachers in the area of early mathematics education (3 to 8 year olds).

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.”

The ‘STEM as Gaeilge agus Cant’ project, led by Camara Education, is also benefiting from significant additional partner funding of €1 million from the Department of Culture Heritage and Gaeltacht. A number of the projects receiving investment will specifically work towards engaging girls and women in STEM, including ‘Yes! Youth Engineering Solutions Project; the ‘SOPHia: Science Outreach’ project to promote Physics to Female Students; and ‘Weave: Interwoven culturally responsive computational thinking’ which sees DCU and Carlow IT partnering with PDST (Professional Development Service for Teachers) to develop a cross curricular computational thinking framework for girls.

In recognition of the influence and impact that teachers and role models can have on young people’s learning, and career paths, the Science Capital Programme will deliver best practice training for youth and development workers undertaking STEM activities in after-schools clubs in the Midlands region, while the STEM Teacher Internship (STInt) programme will develop STEM teaching and learning practice, and provide role models to inspire future generations of students to consider STEM careers, fostering sustainable school-industry collaborations. Teachers will undertake paid summer internships in STEM companies, so they can bring first-hand experience of the roles and careers of STEM professionals back into their classrooms.

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 five hundred and eighty thousand people.