Ministers Harris and Foley announce investment in 4 TU Dublin projects to help public understanding of STEM

1 Jun, 2022

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, and Minister for Education Norma Foley TD have announced an investment in four TU Dublin projects to improve public understanding of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The SFI Discover Programme funding of €400,000 will encourage diversity and inclusion in STEM, while also targeting a wide range of ages, including young children, teens and adults. 

Announcing the funding, Minister Harris TD 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.”

The projects funded by TU Dublin are:

CS_LINC - Bridging the gap to Formal Computer Science Education (Co-funded by the Department of Education)

Project Lead: Dr Keith Quille

CSLINC will provide formal Computer Science (CS) curricula through equitable online modules that provide long-term exposure to CS. As part of the Leaving Certificate Computer Science (LCCS) framework, the Department of Education and Skills identified that building capacity for Computer Science amongst teachers and students was a significant barrier to the future success of the subject. Using a suite of free targeted supports, CSLINC is building student and teacher capacity for progression into LCCS and for Youth Reach Post Leaving Certificate courses. 

CSLINC is an online student learning environment for Computer Science consisting of several modules built upon international best practices with varying collaborators, tailored to Irish second-level students. It is free to use and mobile-friendly, so schools don't need a fully equipped computer lab to use the platform. Each module consists of lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, videos, homework and solutions for teachers, providing a full suite of online tools to deliver successful introductory Transition Year, Junior Cycle and Youth Reach Computer Science courses. There is also an automated assessment where students take a pre-created quiz that is graded automatically, and successful students will receive a certificate of completion from TU Dublin for each module they pass.

Fiosracht in the Classroom - The STEMPATHY Journey

Project Lead: Dr Gerard Ryder and Lucy McAuley

Fiosracht in the Classroom (FiC) provides an immersive experience of STEM delivered through a unique journey in which students and teachers in primary school learn about the relevance of science and technology in their world. This is the STEMpathy Journey, a student-centred, cross-curricula, design thinking process with five distinct stages: DEFINE, EMPATHY, IDEATE, PROTOTYPE and SHARE. Children use compassion, storytelling, creativity, art and communication skills to develop innovative solutions to everyday problems. Students showcase their work at the end of their journey and become ambassadors for STEM who excite and engage their community on how STEM can enhance society.

Fiosracht in the Classroom has been piloted in a number of schools in Lucan and Tallaght and identified a number of barriers to widespread adoption of the programme. This project will develop a teacher training programme and a community of practice to support teachers as they guide their students on the journey and provide a mechanism for network development and process evolution.

TRY FIVE (Biology, Engineering, Chemistry, Electronics & Microscopy)

Project Lead: Riona Fitzgerald 

The Try Five STEM Project aims to provide pupils in DEIS schools with hands-on experience of STEM activities to improve their understanding of STEM, its applications to everyday life, and in their future careers. To do this, TRY FIVE will deliver 60 workshops to 250 fourth class students across five different STEM-related areas (Biology, Engineering, Chemistry, Electronics and Microscopy). The SFI Discover funding will be used to determine the project's success and establish if participants experienced a shift in attitude towards STEM subjects in terms of confidence gained, increased knowledge and understanding of their potential, and improved skill levels.

Happy Maths, fighting Maths Anxiety with Game-based Learning

Project Lead: Dr Pierpaolo Dondio 

Happy Maths is a programme for primary school students, teachers, and parents to raise awareness about Maths Anxiety and how game-based learning can mitigate its negative effect. Maths Anxiety is "a debilitating negative emotional reaction towards mathematics", affecting one in six students. It is more severe in girls than boys, thereby worsening the existing problem of gender inequality in STEM education.

Happy Maths has two aspects. One is for pupils, consisting of a 5-week-programme where they engage with educational digital games for Maths. The aim is not only to increase their Maths cognitive abilities but specifically to use the power of games to engage disadvantaged and anxious pupils to mitigate the negative effects of Maths Anxiety. The second aspect is for teachers and parents and includes workshops for teachers to facilitate their independent adoption of game-based learning in the classroom. The uniqueness of Happy Maths is that the games were entirely developed by TU Dublin researchers. In the first half of 2022, the Happy Maths project visited about 40 classrooms in County Dublin, Meath and Kildare, and more than 1000 students had already participated.

Read more about the announcement here. 

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