22 March 2021: Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, today announced a national investment of €5.2 million through the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme.  The funding will support 49 public engagement and education initiatives that aim to improve public understanding of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) and engage a wide audience of people with STEM topics.

The projects cover topics including biodiversity, STEM sign language, climate action and sustainability, coding, epilepsy, understanding pandemics, digital wellbeing, and the link between music, maths, and physics.  The initiatives also target a wide range of ages including young children, teens, and adults as well as some initiatives designed for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and attending DEIS schools and those living with sight loss.

Speaking about the announcement Minister Harris said: “I am delighted to announce the 49 projects that will receive funding through the SFI Discover Programme. As we continue to live through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are more conscious than ever of the importance of supporting the public to have access to and to understand the issues that impact our collective future, and the role science and technology can play in providing solutions. These projects will play a role in starting conversations about the role of STEM in society and inspiring our young people to explore careers in these areas. I wish all the recipients every success in the roll out of their projects.”

The awards will see a number of projects supported including:

  • Irish Sign Language STEM Glossary Project - National Expansion – this project aims to promote and support STEM education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) people by developing an agreed lexicon in Irish Sign Language for STEM terms. The absence of agreed signs for STEM vocabulary inhibits the teaching of STEM subjects at all levels of education and presents difficulties for those working in interpreting.
  • Eco Showboat Expedition 2021 – a floating environmental science laboratory and art studio, bringing communities, scientists, and artists together across Ireland to observe, draw, photograph and film freshwater biodiversity through workshops.
  • Girls Coding – CodePlus – seeks to address this imbalance by encouraging, facilitating, and providing opportunities to teenage female students to engage with Computer Science.  This project includes an expansion to the Galway and Limerick areas, in addition to the Dublin based activities funded under the SFI Discover Programme in previous years.
  • Igniting Curiosity in STEM: IET FIRST LEGO League – inspires children and young people from the ages of 4-16 to understand and shape the world that they live in, in a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive way.
  • Dingle Peninsula 2030 - A Model Enabling Community-led Climate Action – the project will build capacity for STEM engagement in community-based climate action, which provides an ideal platform for up-scaling and amplified impact, from local to national levels.  This project will be led by MaREI SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine.
  • Science 4 Sight Loss – The co-creation group and planned workshops will help stimulate engagement and curiosity in STEM, provide insights into STEM-related careers and inspire this underrepresented group to have confidence in their ability to tackle the barriers of diversity and inclusion in STEM.
  • Educational platform for Irish beekeepers (EDIBEE) – this project will engage beekeepers with STEM through a series of workshops to explore other skills and technology that can be used with beekeeping.

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society said: “The SFI Discover Programme is a key part of our education and public engagement activity.  It aims to support projects at local level, as well as at regional and national levels, to stimulate engagement and understanding with STEM. Recently, we published the SFI Science in Ireland Barometer 2020. This research enables us to have better understanding of the public’s attitude to science and provides evidence to inform and shape how our education and public engagement initiatives meet the needs of the people of Ireland. These projects will play a key role in supporting the public to better understand the evidence behind challenges we have collectively face, and the choices we need to make in the future. We are looking forward to working with these exciting and creative education and engagement programmes, making the excitement and importance of STEM more accessible to a wide diversity of people.”

The full list of the 49 projects can be found here