MU researchers awarded grants to inspire public engagement with STEM

MU projects bring digital skills, critical and computational thinking, and biology to the classroom
Monday, March 6, 2023 - 10:30

Three Maynooth University researchers have been awarded over €600,000 to deliver innovative public engagement projects under the SFI Discover Programme announced today. 

The programme aims to improve diversity and inclusion in STEM by supporting projects that give special consideration to building connections with less-represented voices or those who would not typically engage with STEM. Each project builds engagement with, and for, specific audiences, to ensure that education meets the needs of the end-user. The MU projects address key skills, such as the use of satellite data to inform citizen science and decision making for the SDGs, education for computational thinking and peer-to-peer education around the Human Papilloma Virus.

Commenting on the announcement, Prof Philip Nolan, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland, said: “The SFI Discover Programme is a key part of our education and public engagement strategy. The Programme encourages collaboration to support public engagement with STEM, with a specific emphasis on broadening participation geographically and amongst less represented voices in STEM. It is essential that we support and encourage diversity and equality at all levels, providing the talent in our society an opportunity to fully participate in shaping our collective future. SFI is keen to push the boundaries of participation and engagement with STEM research. I look forward to seeing what these projects achieve over the coming months"

5*S: Space, Surveyors and Students - Phase 2, Dr Conor Cahalane, Department of Geography:
5*S Phase 2 uses satellites, survey data and the UN SDGs to support teaching and learning and enthuse students from different genders and social backgrounds about STEM.  All 5*S content aligns to the national geography, science and history curricula and also focusses on how data from Copernicus - the European Union’s earth observation satellite programme - is key to tackling big questions like meeting the SDG. This project is also relevant to the public at the national level, showing interested parties what they can do with it in their own locales as citizen scientists.

CoCoA23: Co-create Collaborate Activate - Advancing Computational Thinking Education, Dr Kevin Casey, Department of Computer Science:
The CoCoA project has been highly successful during its first phase, having co-created a resource book for teachers, expanded our network to 250+ teachers and 30+ Computation Thinking Ambassadors and particpated in International Bebras Task Workshop.  We have fine-tuned a process for co-creation with teachers and have proven the appetite for computational materials in both primary and secondary schools.  We also recognise that to-date our materials have been tailored for a school audience. During our second phase we will build to diversify our audience further. 

HPV Education powered by STEAM: Exploring peer-to-peer creative critical engagements, Dr Iain Macdonald, Department of Design Innovation and and Dr Céline Healy, Department of Education
This STEAM study explores the impact of innovative peer-to-peer creative, critical engagements between post-primary and primary students to develop Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination awareness and advocacy. It is an interdisciplinary, intersectoral and international collaboration between departments of Education and Design Innovation in Maynooth University and Life Sciences, Health & Social Care Sciences, and Design, in Edinburgh Napier University, with the Irish Cancer Society, and a range of Irish post-primary and primary schools. 

Previously, the STEM Passport for Inclusion project was funded jointly by the SFI Discover Programme (€300k), the Department of Education (€300k), and Microsoft Ireland (€600k).