SciFest 2010 reveals real-world focus on science and maths

11 Oct 2010

Thirty-five second-level students were awarded Intel Excellence in Science medals in recognition of their achievements in SciFest 2010 at 14 Institutes of Technology and the Millennium Forum in Derry.

SciFest is a national festival of science organised regionally in collaboration with the institutes of technology. It is open to all second-level students. The aim is to encourage a love of science through project-based learning and to provide more opportunities for students to present and display the results of their scientific investigations.

The SciFest initiative is jointly funded by Intel and Discover Science and Engineering as project partners. A number of companies, such as BT, Abbott and Dairymaster, also support the initiative.

Each of the 35 students had been either individual or group winners of the Best Project awards at SciFest 2010. The winners of the SciFest 2010 Mathematics in Science Award were also announced, and trophies were presented to the three projects that the judges decided best illustrated the importance of mathematics in science.

Some of the Science Awards included research topics like ‘Man, Machinery and Magnetic Fields’ and ‘The Development of an Odourless Fake Tan’ while the Maths Awards went to projects like ‘Skating on Dry Ice’, ‘An Investigation Into the Shortest Distance Between Vertices in Various 3-D Solids’ and ‘Is Your Bag Weighing you Down?’

In the three years since Scifest was launched nationwide, 6,241 students have exhibited 2,613 projects. This represents an increase in participation of 23pc in 2009 and a further increase of 34pc in 2010.

“By linking what students learn in the classroom, opportunities in higher education and potential career paths, SciFest plays a valuable role in helping to encourage young people to pursue high-productivity jobs in the smart economy,” Science and Innovation Minister Conor Lenihan TD, said.

“The 34pc rise in participation in last year’s competition is a clear sign that SciFest is going from strength to strength,” he said.

21st-century skills

Joe Foley, Intel Ireland Fab Operations factory manager, said it is of vital importance that we equip students with the 21st-century skills required to transform Ireland into a smart economy.

“Education is the key to achieving this and SciFest is an example of Intel’s vision of moving from a content-based model of education to one which is skills based. The SciFest competition helps participants develop skills in areas such as problem solving, design, innovation, communications and creativity.

“By creating a passion for science, technology, engineering and maths among students we can help to create a pipeline of graduates that will help Ireland compete for high-level jobs in the future,” Foley said.

Each project displayed a creative approach and provided a real-world application of the skills that the students have learned in the classroom, said Peter Brabazon, programme director, Discover Science and Engineering.

“Their projects reflect the standard of science, technology, engineering and maths across the second-level system and the passion of young people in these areas. Competitions like SciFest will help channel their passion into pursuing careers in the smart economy and it is fantastic to see companies like Intel working hand-in-hand with institutes of education across the country to achieve this.

“The SciFest competition is also a natural fit with our Discover Sensors project, which promotes inquiry-based science teaching and learning through the use of sensor technology. Discover Sensors presents an award for projects which demonstrate a high level of application of investigative science methodologies using data-logging equipment at each host Institute of Technology.”

The Mathematics in Science Award, which was piloted this year, will be rolled out to each venue in 2011. The winner in each venue will receive a trophy sponsored by the National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning (NCE-MSTL) at University of Limerick. To celebrate the International Year of Chemistry, PharmaChemical Ireland is also awarding a trophy at each institute to the project with the best chemical content.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years