Inside the Galway science festival that wows thousands with STEM

29 Oct 2019

Image: Galway Science & Technology Festival

Each year, the Galway Science & Technology Festival brings STEM to tens of thousands of people in the west of Ireland with fun-filled all-ages events. Anne Murray reflects on the festival’s success.

Now in its 22nd year, The Galway Science & Technology Festival (GSTF) is a well-established annual celebration and promotion of STEM. Founded in 1998, this two-week event series is held in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland’s national Science Week, culminating in the festival’s major exhibition day hosted by NUI Galway. It has grown to become the pre-eminent STEM event in the west of Ireland, and a key feature on the national STEM calendar.

The theme for this year’s Science Week is climate action and the GSTF is currently planning a number of events and talks to raise the awareness of the climate crisis, and educate people on the changes that are taking place and what each and every individual can do to lessen the disastrous effects.

Galway Science & Technology Festival aims to nurture an interest and curiosity in STEM subjects from the point when students first start school right up to when they are completing secondary school and considering applications to thirdlevel study. It also aims to communicate widely to the general public the relevance of STEM to everyday lives and society.

As part of the festival programme, more than 200 individual workshops and shows visit schools across Galway city and county throughout the two weeks. Students attend talks, shows and workshops from NUI Galway, GMIT, Atlantaquaria, Brigit’s Garden, the Marine Institute, the Cúram centre for research medical devices and Cell Explorers science outreach. New to the festival in 2019 will be tours of Galway City Museum.

The closing one-day exhibition at NUI Galway attracts more than 22,000 people for a fun-filled day of inspiring, educational and interesting STEM-related activities for all ages. This exhibition is the largest of its kind in Ireland and Europe and includes more than 80 interactive and inspiring stands by leading multinational companies, third-level educational bodies, local primary and secondary schools, and research institutes. All together, it showcases Galway as a hub for both medtech and information technology.

‘The festival demonstrate how scientists and engineers serve, innovate in and enhance society’

An additional priority for Galway Science & Technology Festival is encouraging young people to consider a career as a scientist or engineer, and to change perceptions of what being a scientist and engineer entails. The festival demonstrate how scientists and engineers serve, innovate in and enhance society thanks to the many scientists and engineers who volunteer to give career talks and participate on their company stands at the exhibition.

More than 500 scientists and engineers volunteer for the festival from local companies Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Cisco, Fidelity, Creganna, Merit Medical, EA, Valeo, Aerogen and Romero Games. New companies to the 2019 festival include Genesys and MathWorks. Engineers and scientists from NUI Galway, GMIT and the Marine Institute also host interactive stands at the exhibition and the GSTF offers a bursary to postgrads and staff in educational bodies to develop and roll out workshops.

Importantly, the festival aims to provide all activities free of charge, thanks to the generous sponsorship and participation of local companies, educational bodies and State agencies such as Science Foundation Ireland, Galway Local Enterprise Office, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.

By Anne Murray

Anne Murray is the manager of Galway Science & Technology Festival and an executive assistant at IDA Ireland.

The 2019 Galway Science & Technology Festival takes place from 11 to 24 November with events across Galway city and county. The full programme can be found here.