Mullingar, 11th December: Transition Year students from Loreto College, Mullingar have been named the winners of the ‘Shaping Your Future’ 3D printing innovation challenge. More than 100 students from four Midlands schools have been competing in the ‘Shaping Your Future’ programme since September, run in partnership by IMR, a Mullingar-based manufacturing research centre, and I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing, at University College Dublin. The programme is funded under the Science Foundation Ireland Discover call.

On Tuesday 10th December, finalists pitched their ideas to a team of judges at IMR’s high-tech manufacturing facility in Mullingar. Researchers from IMR and I-Form had issued a challenge to students: design and create something useful for a person with a disability, or a person in a disaster zone. The winning idea was a design and 3D printed prototype for a key aid called ‘Keyzy’ – aimed at helping Parkinson’s sufferers and those with tremors more easily slot a key into a keyhole and turn a key in a lock.

Robert Masterson, the winning team’s teacher at Loreto College, said: “Our students worked so hard throughout ‘Shaping Your Future’; I’m delighted to see their efforts recognised with this win. This project required imagination, teamwork, empathy and learning new technical skills. The competition has opened all of our eyes to the amazing possibilities offered by 3D printing, and we hope this win will inspire other students to consider how they could shape the future by using technology to benefit others.”

Irish Manufacturing Research CEO Barry Kennedy said: “We are delighted to be involved with the ‘Shaping the Future’ programme. The quality of the entries was exceptional and bodes well for Irish industry, with such fantastic ideas and skills being demonstrated by the students. It was a real privilege for us to be involved with these great schools, students and in particular teachers, who have taken the time to support the students and to learn about the exciting world of engineering and manufacturing of the future.”

I-Form Centre Director Prof Denis Dowling said: “Manufacturing is the second-largest employer in Ireland, but what we hear from our industry partners is that they are struggling to recruit the next generation of talented engineers, who need not only advanced technical skills, but also skills in areas such as creativity and innovation, as well as the ability to collaborate and communicate. Our ‘Shaping Your Future’ programme aims to change the perception of manufacturing, by encouraging students and teachers to see modern manufacturing careers as exciting, innovative, creative, collaborative and well-paid.”

Margie McCarthy, Head of Education and Public Engagement, Science Foundation Ireland, added: “This is a great example of how the Discover Programme facilitates learning opportunities and sparks interest in innovative new skills, opening young minds and hearts across the country to the many possibilities that science and engineering offers.”

3D printing is changing how things are made by enabling manufacturers to produce complex geometries and custom products, with greater efficiency and less waste.

Four schools took part in the ‘Shaping Your Future’ programme: Scoil Mhuire in Trim, Meath; Ardscoil Phádraig in Granard, Longford; Columba College in Killucan, Westmeath; and Loreto College, Mullingar. Over the course of several weeks, IMR and I-Form researchers visited students in the classroom and then welcomed them into the IMR facility in Mullingar. Students were challenged to come up with an idea for a product, design it on a computer, and print a prototype using 3D printers that were donated to the schools through the global GE Additive donation scheme.

The finalists won a prize for their class and were presented with a 3D printed trophy designed by IMR researchers especially for the occasion.

The ‘Shaping Your Future’ programme has also included primary school interactions with St Kenny’s in Mullingar and Naas Community National School. Under the programme, 14 teachers from the Engineering & Technology Teachers Association participated in a day of 3D printing training, held at University College Dublin. Teachers also received lesson plans and classroom resources through the project.