We had a Blast!!

A whopping 26 PhD and early career researchers from both Trinity College Dublin and the Atlantic Technological University Sligo, sparked conversations with over 800 primary students at our stand in the RDS for the ESB Science Blast! It was our biggest event to date in terms of the number of days, researchers and engagement.

Primary students from all over Leinster sat down with us for 5-10mins to talk about green energy, making batteries from coins and discussing hydrogen fuel cells with our researchers. We also took part as gaeilge on the Irish Language day where our Gaeilgeoir Niamh O’Shea from Trinity Chemistry engaged with gaelscoileanna as gaeilge all day!

The feedback we gathered from the event was also hugely positive with 78% of attendees to our stand rating it the highest possible rating on our 5-point “smiley scale”, and a further 16% rating it the second highest on our scale. The remaining 6% were a mixture of neutral and negative, which we will now learn from for future improvements.

A lot of thanks is due to many people. First of all to Rob Conway from the RDS for inviting us to take part. Rob is a Trinity Chemistry graduate so it was great to connect with him again. Thanks also to all of our leaders, which took charge of the stand each day; Susie Calvert, Ellen Fay, Lucy Fitzsimmons, and Inigo Iribarren. Finally, thanks to our ATU Sligo researchers who travelled all the way from Sligo to join their Trinity colleagues.

We’re back for 2023!

The Trinity College Dublin team have kicked off the new calendar year with workshops in Coolmine Community School in west Dublin, Clongowes in Kildare and Templecarrig in Wicklow. They have battled the wet and cold weather to get back on the road again with our battery investigation workshop. Our secondary school workshops are aimed at TY, 5th and 6th year chemistry students. We know from research that over a third of leaving cert chemistry students never do science again after they finish school. We want to encourage more students to remain in science, especially chemistry, by sparking their interest in the hugely important and rapidly expanding area of energy storage.

We need new and more efficient batteries for everything from electric cars, to tablets, to phones to backup storage for the electricity grid. At the moment lithium-ion batteries are the best we have but new technologies are emerging and we need more scientists in the future to continue this expansion in the use of green energy storage.

Thank you to all the PhD students in the School of Chemistry in Trinity College Dublin for giving up their time to visit schools all over Leinster!

School Workshops in the North West

The ATU Sligo team have been very busy throughout the months of November and December especially, with workshops running every week. The team of staff and PhD researchers have had numerous schools on campus during Science Week and have also visited schools all around the North West of Ireland. Over the past few weeks, the ATU Sligo team have ran multiple workshops with Coola Post-Primary, Castlerea Community School, Jesus and Mary College in Enniscrone, St. Mary’s in Ballisadare, Drumshambo Vocational School and Sligo Grammar just to name a few. Thank you to the teachers, students and schools for getting involved in the project and we hope everyone enjoyed our workshops. The ATU Sligo team will now take a well deserved rest for the Christmas break and return to even more schools in the spring time.

Teacher CPD at the ChemEd-Ireland Conference

Electrochemistry is currently the least popular and worst answered question on the Leaving Cert Chemistry exam paper. But this is not hugely surprising, since it is only a small component of the main course and is mainly part of an optional section. But we need to spark a greater interest in this hugely important area if we are to make better use of green energy in Ireland. To reduce our dependence on fossil fuels for energy, we are going to need more researchers and projects to solve our current and future energy demands.

In addition to student school workshops and public engagement, our project also has a small Teacher Continuous Professional Development (CPD) component. The aim of this is to help teachers to teach this important area with new accessible resources and ideas. This will provide our project with longevity and a much larger impact since each teacher has dozens of students.

Huge thanks to David O’Connell, who we partnered with to provide a new electrochemistry workshop at the recent ChemEd-Ireland conference at the Technological University of the Shannon in Limerick. David is a teacher at Christian Brothers College in Cork with a great passion for this area of chemistry. His workshop was a huge success with a full house on both occasions on the day.

Well done David and thank you!

School Workshops

Our school workshops are off to a flying start for this academic year with both ATU Sligo and the Trinity College Dublin teams visiting TY, 5th and 6th year students in the North West and around Leinster. The feedback to date from the students and teachers has been hugely positive with many asking us to return next year already!

However, we have been inundated with requests from schools for a workshop, which is fantastic but the demand is way beyond our capacity! We will do our best to keep up with the incredible demand from schools. Please be patient as we get back to teachers and try to arrange dates for visits.

National and World Ploughing Championships 2022

Our very busy summer of public engagement was capped off with the largest outdoor event in Europe. With nearly 300,000 people in attendance, the National and World Ploughing Championships did not disappoint! Returning after a 2 year absence, it was an absolute pleasure to join Science Foundation Ireland at their stand in the Government Village to run short, snappy workshops about hydrogen fuel cells and batteries.

The demographic was wide with children, parents, teachers, retirees and more all sitting down with us to spark some conversations with our PhD Researchers. Well done to Áine Coogan for leading the team for the entire 3 days and thank you to Lucy Fitzsimmons and Munirah Ghariani who are both doing their PhD at Trinity College Dublin and thank you to Nishanth Thomas who is a researcher at the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Sligo. It was great that both partnership institutions once again worked together for this event, sharing ideas and stories about their own research journey to date.

Thank you to Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) for having us and we hope everyone of the 1000 people who met enjoyed our activities and conversations. Thank you also to the Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Prof. Linda Doyle and to the Minister for State for Further, Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Niall Collins TD and to the Minister for Further, Higher Education Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD for visiting us over the 3 days.

Our Second Public Engagement Event

Hot on the heels of the Cork Carnival of Science in June, exactly a month later we are out and about again for the 2022 Dublin Maker in Merrion Square. This time we had a great collaboration of researchers from both of our partner project institutions: Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the Atlantic Technological University (ATU), Sligo.

Our TCD researchers setup the stand and sparked conversations for the morning part of the festival. Our ATU Sligo researchers took a train from Sligo and took over the stand for the middle part of the day to give the TCD group a break and got a train back to Sligo again on the same day. It was a grueling 7 hour round trip for a total of about 4-5 hours in Dublin. The TCD researchers then finished off the day and packed everything up again. It was entirely run by our Coordinator Natalia and demonstrated the unique partnership that this project facilitates between the institutions.

Thank you to all the PhD researchers from TCD and ATU Sligo for making Aluminum-Air batteries with about 320 people over the course of the day. The feedback from everyone was hugely positive and thank you to Dublin Maker for having us!

Photos by Conor Harford

Our First Public Engagement Event

Our first Current Chemistry Investigators (CCI) public engagement event took place at the Cork Carnival of Science 2022 and it was a huge success! The two day outdoor event was attended by about 25,000 people and the CCI team engaged with about 3000 people at our battery making tent!

We had queues of people lining up to make coin-cell batteries to light up an LED. All participants received a take-home pack with everything they needed to make their own LED torch from coins, cloth, saltwater electrolyte and aluminum.

Huge thanks to Science Foundation Ireland (SGI), Cork City Council and the Old Cork Waterworks for a hugely enjoyable weekend and for inviting us to be part of it! Well done to our Schools Coordinator Dr Natalia Garcia Domenech for running our tent and thank you to her enthusiastic team of researchers for their hard work; Áine, Nadia and Karlijn.

SFI Discover Projects Announcement

We were delighted to join the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, and the Minister for Education, Norma Foley, to help announce the 47 Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Discover projects aimed at improving public understanding of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Our project represents a unique partnership between Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) in Sligo to engage with communities in the East and North West of Ireland mainly but our project has a national reach with a focus on encouraging diversity and inclusion in STEM, while also targeting a wide range of ages including young children, teens and adults.

Announcing the funding, Minister Harris said:

“I am delighted to announce today the 47 projects receiving funding through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Discover Programme.

“These projects will have an invaluable impact, starting conversations about the role of STEM in society and inspiring our young people to explore careers in these areas.

“Through initiatives such as the SFI Discover Programme, we must support the public to have access to, and understand, the issues that impact our collective future, and the role science and technology can play in providing solutions. I wish all the recipients every success in the rollout of their projects.”

Speaking of the projects co-funded by the Department of Education, Minister Foley said:

“We are pleased to collaborate with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science by supporting five projects that will receive funding through the SFI Discover Programme.

“These projects are designed to grow and encourage participation in STEM education and public engagement, inspiring our young people to explore STEM roles in the future. I want to congratulate all of the individuals and teams involved in their work to date on these projects.”

Huge thank you to Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) for the opportunity to meet the ministers and take part in this announcement and thank you for the funding to spark conversations with schools and the public about electrochemistry.

Full Press Release: https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/59b20-ministers-harris-and-foley-announce-investment-in-47-projects-to-help-public-understanding-of-stem/

Our Pilot Workshops Continue

Thank you to the teachers and 5th year Leaving Cert Chemistry students at Loreto Secondary School in Navan, Co. Meath who gave us really useful feedback about our new CCI workshop. We have now made a few more small tweaks and improvements to the format based on this feedback.

It seems that everyone really enjoyed doing the hands on experimentation and solving the mysterious sabotage of our fictional battery powered car! All photos shown here taken and shared by Loreto Secondary School in Navan. You can follow them on twitter here https://twitter.com/loretonavan