Start-ups pitch for seed fund to innovate how we learn, digitally

2 Dec 2011

Science Gallery Dublin runs quirky science evenings and experiments, such as what you see in this photo, so the public can learn about science, all while having fun

Five teams are pitching their start-up plans to judges at Dublin’s Science Gallery today. Their aim? To change the face of how we learn in Ireland, all via IT and science, and embracing digital tech.

Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin and NDRC Inventorium have pooled their scientific, educational and enterprising resources to come up with this new initiative to find Ireland’s next educational entrepreneur.

Today’s judges include:

  • Kevin Jennings, senior learning technology designer at Google
  • Jonathan Drori of Changing Media
  • Michael John Gorman, director, Science Gallery Dublin
  • Amy Neale, programme manager, NDRC

The ultimate winner will scoop a first prize of €5,000 seed funding to develop their business idea.

Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn, TD, opened the competition at 9am in Science Gallery at TCD today.

With Ireland’s Leaving Cert curricula and overall education system coming under the global radar of late, with some experts arguing for a revamp, especially in light of recent average performances in the STEM subjects, the competition would appear to be timely.

The scoop on digital tech

Mike Saunders, director of Digital Technologies at London’s Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, will give the keynote speech at today’s event. There will also be a panel discussion with the Hedge School – NCAD; Keimpe de Heer – Waag Society, The Netherlands and Sean Love – Fighting Words, Dublin.

So, here’s a glimpse of the teams that are pitching their business plans in Dublin. There’s even a team comprised of transition-year students, hailing from three Co Donegal secondary schools!

The five finalists include:  

Barry Slattery of Linking Learning, a website service and mobile app that aims to help parents gain a deeper understanding and awareness of the all specific learning objectives their child is encountering weekly.

Cianán Clancy of Learning Hunt, a mobile content platform and authoring tool, allowing diverse organisations, from art galleries to zoos, to quickly develop and deploy mobile learning experiences, transforming fixed exhibitions into connected, interactive learning challenges and games.

Sarah Geaney of Science Project, an initiative focused on enabling the public to better understand science and its benefit to society by participating in current scientific research.

BEO Network (transition-year students). BEO organises and promotes live music events for teenagers. This group was set up in 2009 by three neighbouring schools in Donegal and Letterkenny, Colaiste Ailigh, Loreto Convent and St Eunans. 

Jane Ruffino and Mark Jordan of Ourchaelogy. Ourchaeology makes everyone an archaeologist, say its founders. It aims to link home-school and museum-based learning by deploying web and mobile technologies, enabling young people in real time, while out in the streets and countryside, to use real archaeological data to design and carry out projects.

You can find out more about each of the five finalists and their projects here.

The ideas could be a product, service or sustainable business which would bridge formal and informal learning.

The judging panel was especially interested in proposals that focused on the design of new learning tools/materials that were student focused and project based. 

Open to all, the competition received applications from a range of individuals from a business, education, science and technology or entrepreneurial background. From these applications, five finalists were selected and given €3,000 to develop their ideas over a six-week period. During the six weeks, they also spent time with the NDRC Inventorium team and associated designers, refining and scoping out their ideas and plans.

And the winner is …

These five finalists are presenting their ideas to a judging panel of leaders from business, formal and informal learning environments and curriculum experts in Ireland. The winning team will also come away with mentoring support from the NDRC Inventorium and Science Gallery teams.

Speaking this morning, Quinn spoke about how we need to “re-energise the Irish economy” by engaging our “brightest young people” in science, engineering, maths and digital technologies. 

“Given the rapid pace of change enabled by new technology, the leading global companies here in Ireland require flexible, creative people, with the mindsets to apply their learnings in different areas. Science Gallery and NDRC Inventorium have a crucial role to play in this process by offering opportunities to young entrepreneurs and recognising the significant talent they bring to our country and economy,” said Quinn.

The winner will be announced this afternoon, so watch this space!

NDRC Inventorium and the Science Gallery are developing Designs for Learning as an annual and international competition.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic