‘Teaching at its best’: Vex Robotics wins at Teachers Inspire awards

7 Oct 2019

Some of the winners from the inaugural Teachers Inspire awards. Image: Julian Behal

The integration of Vex Robotics into the primary school curriculum, led by Dr Maeve Liston, won the Teaching Council’s Collaboration Award, which recognises innovative, collaborative, change-making projects.

On Friday (4 October), the inaugural Teachers Inspire award ceremony was held in The Helix at Dublin City University.

There were four nominees shortlisted for the Teaching Council’s Collaboration Award at Teachers Inspire. This award recognises innovative, collaborative and change-making projects in teaching that have the potential to be scaled nationally.

The four nominees were selected from a total of 50 projects showcased at last week’s FÉILTE event in NUI Galway.

These included an initiative to integrate Vex Robotics into the primary school curriculum; a peer collaboration project between primary and post-primary-level students in mathematics; a cross-curricular, collaborative approach to STEM teaching to encourage and increase participation from girls in DEIS schools; and a project called Virtual Reality Explorers, which helps children develop their reading, writing and oral language skills with the use of a VR headset.


The prize was awarded to the Vex Robotics programme. The project, led by Dr Maeve Liston of Mary Immaculate College with the help of mentors from Dell EMC in Limerick, supports teachers in introducing robotics across the primary school curriculum.

This is achieved through the delivery of summer courses and regular professional development sessions with teachers. The model of STEM educational outreach aims to build teachers’ content and pedagogy knowledge in STEM, influencing their confidence and ability to teach STEM skills.

Vex Robotics teaches school children over the age of eight the basics of STEM and how to apply these skills to the design, building and programming of robots. Teachers Inspire noted that the project also teaches the children valuable skills such as project management, presentation skills, teamwork and leadership.

‘Teaching at its best’

Noelle Moran, chair of the Teaching Council, said: “We are immensely impressed by the projects showcased at FÉILTE this year and choosing a shortlist for the Teachers Inspire awards was a difficult task.

“Our finalists and other showcases showed teaching at its best: the willingness to go above and beyond the curriculum, selfless collaboration with others, change making for the greater good and the delivery of real and lasting initiatives for teachers and students.

“I congratulate Dr Maeve Liston and her team on winning this award and look forward to seeing similar initiatives rolled out across Ireland.”

Director of the Teaching Council, Tomás Ó Ruairc, added: “STEM projects require a high level of creativity, collaboration and cross-functional learning.

“The winning project exemplifies these benefits across a number of areas – public and private sector, schools and third level, teachers across three counties and all integrating robotics into the primary curriculum, which is innovation and integration all in one!

“The quality of all entries for the Teaching Council’s Collaborative Award provides cause for great confidence in the teaching profession as it continually evolves to meet the needs of a modern and ever progressive society and economy.”

Four teachers, one from each province in Ireland, also took home prizes for their contribution to Irish education and society. These were Seamas Cassidy, Nora Duffy, Sinead O’Mahony and Kelly Loughran.

‘Fondness and gratitude’

President of DCU, Prof Brian MacCraith, said: “The motivation behind Teachers Inspire was to create a platform that would highlight the work of our exceptional teachers, and give them the validation and recognition they deserve.

“I am delighted to say that this idea has truly captured the public’s imagination. We have received hundreds of nominations and heard incredible stories of teachers who have gone above and beyond for their students and their communities.”

MacCraith added: “The nominations highlighted teachers dealing with issues such as homelessness, mental health, immigration, unplanned pregnancies, gender identity support, community regeneration and climate change.

“They were submitted by schoolchildren, parents and people whose schooldays are long behind them but who remember their teachers with great fondness and gratitude.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic