Monday, 27 June 2011

STEM Conference in Cork

I was delighted to attend my first meeting outside of Dublin since becoming President and to be in Cork on Thursday last for the STEM Conference. STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics - all essential subjects required at some point to be a successful engineer. The conference was a great success jointly organised between Engineers Ireland and Discover Science and Engineering programme within Forfas ( There was even an unannounced impromptu visit by our new Minister for Innovation, Sean Sherlock, also a Cork TD. He was very upbeat, informed and supportive of the conference in his remarks.
Margie McCarthy Membership Director Engineers Ireland, Dr Jim Robinson Cork Region Chair Engineers Ireland, P J Rudden President Engineers Ireland, Peter Brabazon Director Discover Science and Engineering and Katharine Jansen CSR Manager Abbott Ireland

The presentations and debate rightly focused on the challenge to engage with and to inspire young Second Level students towards the STEM careers in Science and Engineering.

I was met at the event in River Lee Hotel by the Cork Region Chairman Dr Jim Robinson, our Director of Membership Margie McCarthy, Peter Brabazon Director of Discover Science and Engineering, Paul Sheridan our Education Officer and Caitriona Geraghty STEPS Manager ( and who was Conference Organiser.

What impressed me most about the conference was the tremendous collaborative approach between Industry and Education in the Cork Region particularly at Third Level with the Tyndall Institute, UCC, CIT supported by Cork City Council's Lifetime Lab and Blackrock Castle Observatory and many others.

Chris Enright R&D Manager with Hewlett Packard ( pointed out that the speed of technological development is such that we are now teaching and training skills for technologies which havnt yet been invented for future careers which currently don't exist!

Andre Van Aperen of Shell ( outlined many interesting features of the Dutch Jet-Net system for attraction of students towards the STEM like a National Teachers Day and National Girls Day to raise awareness with selected cohorts of people.

Katharine Jensen of Abbott ( showed how a proactive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach at industry level can greatly inspire students towards careers in Science and Engineering.

Michelle Starr of the UL National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning ( told the conference the startling facts that Science was not a compulsory subject at Junior Certificate. She also described the innovative Mallow Schools Project in maths and science funded by local businesses.

Bernard Kirk of Galway Education Centre told us the incredible fact that the syllabus for the subject Engineering at Leaving Cert level had not been revised in 30 years! Really my mind boggles at this! How the world and our engineering world has changed in the past 30 years!

Aoife O'Donoghue outlined the fascinating work at the Tyndall Institute ( where the National Microelectronics Research Institute is hosted and recently visited by Queen Elizabeth. She also described the impressive extent of her Outreach Programme within Science and Engineering education.

It was a tremendously interesting visit to Cork thanks to the organising skills of Caitriona and Kate in Engineers Ireland greatly supported by Peter and his team in Discover Science and Engineering.

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