Hundreds of Irish students take part in Microsoft STEM showcase

19 Jun 2023

Anne Sheehan and James O’Connor surrounded by students at the inaugural Microsoft Dream Space Showcase. Image: Naoise Culhane

The inaugural Microsoft Dream Space programme wants to ‘close the digital skills gap that often exists between rural and urban communities’.

More than 300 students from schools and clubs across Longford, Tipperary and Kildare recently gathered in Dublin for the Microsoft Dream Space showcase.

The inaugural event at One Microsoft Place, the company’s office in Dublin, saw students present STEM-based projects that address various challenges related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Projects include wearable tech for improving young people’s wellbeing, inclusive and accessible voting systems, initiatives to clean the ocean and prevent illegal dumping, and measures to reduce water wastage, among others.

Microsoft Dream Space is the tech giant’s STEM-based innovation and education programme based in Dublin. Since its opening in 2018, more than 130,000 children have taken part through virtual and in-person sessions.

Microsoft initially invested €5m in the project with the intention of providing digital and STEM skills to children, as well as resources for their teachers and parents. It announced plans to invest another €3m into Dream Space over a four-year period last October.

It collaborated with OurKidsCode and the Department of Rural and Community Development and began the programme back in September 2022, when the Dream Space education team visited Longford and Tipperary to conduct sessions.

The project led to schools participating in a further 10-week programme to explore STEM and computer science through other subjects, such as geography, physical education and visual arts.

James O’Connor, Microsoft Ireland site lead, said that the project aims to ensure that “every student across the island of Ireland has the opportunity to develop the skills needed to succeed in a digital economy”.

“Today’s showcase is an important step on the road towards making that ambition a reality as well as a step forward in helping to close the digital skills gap that often exists between rural and urban communities,” said O’Connor.

“It also marks the culmination of many months of hard work by primary school students and clubs from counties Longford and Tipperary as they sought to create innovative solutions to today’s major sustainability challenges.”

Some projects that were recognised for being particularly good were presented by Drum National School in Templemore and Lackamore National School in Newport, Co Tipperary.

Amadean Moore Walsh, Principal of Drom National School, thanked Microsoft and said that the Dream Space programme helps the students who often have limited access to digital technologies to acquire an interest in STEM. “[Thanks] also for supporting us as teachers to develop the digital skills needed to continue to nurture this interest in the classroom.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic