A new generation of innovators took centre stage at Inspirefest, with ideas and energy aplenty.
Inspirefest gave a platform to the next generation of innovators, and they shone brightly — from 10-year old Lauren Boyle from Dublin talking about her ventures to encourage interest in STEAM (that’s science, technology, engineering, art and maths to the acronymically challenged) to 17-year old Émer Hickey from Kinsale, Co Cork, who is launching agricultural solutions company Germinaid Innovations with her friend and fellow teenage scientist Ciara Judge, and the exciting new Outbox Incubator for young women with an interest in STEM that will take place in London this summer.
Boyle took the stage first and described a list of accolades that most people several times her age would struggle to match. She has won multiple awards for her work coding websites and games, she was named EU Digital Girl of the Year in 2014 and she taught An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD a bit of code last year at the launch of Hour of Code.
Boyle started coding two years ago after she saw CoderDojo co-founder James Whelton on The Late Late Show, he had started the now global network of free, peer-learning computer sessions. “I decided to try out CoderDojo, and I would recommend it for any kid aged seven and up, because it is great fun,” she said.
Her latest project is Cool STEAM Kids , an app with games, facts, ‘STEAM selfies’ and ‘ask the expert’ facilities to encourage kids aged 10-15 to develop an interest in STEAM. Why put the ‘A’ in STEM? “The Art added into the STEM brings in the creativity side, the ideas, the design,” she said. “It brings you ideas.”
Germinating great ideas
Also onstage was Hickey, who along with Judge and Sophie Healy-Thow has also won a string of accolades — this time for a project that found combining a naturally-occurring soil bacteria with oats and barley seeds could vastly increase dry mass yield, a finding they hope to build on to address food production and security.
Their innovation and hard work scooped the top prize at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition in 2013 and they went on to win at the Google Science Fair last year. Time magazine named the Cork trio as being among the most influential teenagers in the world.
Hickey spoke about the new company she and Judge are setting up: “Germinaid Innovations stems from the project that we worked on for three years, which looked at germinating seeds,” she explained. “We want to capture ideas, work with them and see where they take us.”
Outbox is in!
Hickey and Judge are among several Irish participants that will take part in a new initiative called Outbox Incubator, run by Stemettes — 118 young women aged between 11 and 22 have been selected to stay in a house in London this summer, where they will learn about business development, communication and the legal nuts and bolts of innovation, as well as getting time to get to know each other with the potential of working together on future projects.
‘Head Stemmette’ Anne-Marie Imafidon described onstage how she wants Outbox to build the confidence of young women who have ideas and a passion for STEM. “They will be meeting with top people in business, building links and contacts among each other and also getting funding to help build up ideas,” she explained.
Outbox co-founder Mary Carty is helping to drive the initiative and Ireland will be well represented in the house — while the list has not been officially announced, the Tweet machine has told us that as well as Judge and Hickey, participants from Ireland will include @cnicharragain, @dalekmad, @edelbrownie, @frizzyroselle and Niamh Scanlon from @coderdojodcu.
Imafidon commends the connectivity between young innovators in Ireland and how the success of young coders and scientists has shone like a beacon and encouraged others. “The publicity the girls [Judge, Hickey, Healy-Thow) have got, it shows normal girls like you who are doing fantastic things.”
So what advice do the speakers have for young women with an interest in STEAM? Hickey suggests to ask lots of questions, including ‘silly questions’ to find out more, Boyle encourages young people to do projects and Imafidon wants young people not to be put off if things go wrong. “Don’t be afraid of making mistakes,” she said.
Updated at 2.27pm on June 30 to include video of Émer Hickey’s Germinaid Innovations launch.
Inspirefest 2015 is Silicon Republic’s international event running 18-20 June in Dublin, connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM with fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity.