University of Galway projects join SFI Discover Programme to promote STEM

Feb 28 2024 Posted: 10:04 GMT

Three University of Galway public engagement and education outreach initiatives have been awarded funding through Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme.


The projects are among 38 being supported with €5million investment announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris T.D., and Minister for Education, Norma Foley T.D. to encourage understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).


The funding will create greater public awareness of the impact of STEM on society and everyday life, generate opportunities for dialogue and encourage diversity in STEM-related disciplines.


Professor Jim Livesey, Vice-President for Research and Innovation at University of Galway, said: “Outreach and public engagement are integral to research at University of Galway and these innovative projects will help generate enthusiasm for STEM while inspiring young people to aspire to careers in the sciences. I thank Science Foundation Ireland for their continued support of these programmes and look forward to the events and activities that are planned.”


University of Galway’s funded projects include:



ReelLIFE SCIENCE is a cross-border public engagement programme, which encourages young people and the public to discover more about STEM and its impact on individuals, society and the environment, while at the same time developing participants’ creativity, communication and digital skills. 
Young people from primary schools, secondary schools and youth organisations are challenged to research a STEM topic and communicate it for the public via an engaging and educational 3-minute video. The best videos are awarded prizes of €1,000 and are screened for the public at the Galway Science and Technology Festival, at other public events, and online. 
Led by Dr Enda O’Connell, ReelLIFE SCIENCE has enabled more than 23,000 young people from across the island of Ireland to directly engage with STEM in a novel way. The videos produced have had a secondary audience of over 570,000 online and at public screenings, increasing the public’s knowledge and engagement with science and technology. 
Empathy Detectives

The Empathy Detectives project is a collaboration between CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices hosted by University of Galway, and the University’s Ideas Lab and PPI Ignite Network, and patient representative Cameron Keighron, a member of the D1 Now Young Adult Panel, which aims to improve engagement between young adults with Type 1 Diabetes and their healthcare providers.


Led by Professor Abhay Pandit, the project will convene a patient panel to work alongside the project team to create 'empathy kits'; a series of short experiences that create empathy and understanding about the lived experience of diabetes for public audiences, with a particular focus on junior cycle students and families. These kits will be made available at Galway City Museum, through CÚRAM's public exhibit 'SUPERHUMAN' which is housed there. The kit will be co-created, tested and evaluated with a view to establishing a model for creation of further empathy kits representing chronic conditions targeted by current research at CÚRAM. 


The project will deliver a series of design workshops that will incorporate the empathy kit experience and facilitate participants to use design thinking exercises to generate creative ideas and solutions for chronic illnesses. Workshop audiences will include teachers, students, researchers, patient groups and families. Key to the success of the project will be the involvement of patients, researchers and clinicians in the design of the empathy experience. The end goal of the project is to create meaningful educational resources that encourage and develop empathy alongside innovation, and that relate directly to the junior cycle science curriculum.

START To Discover: Fuelling curiosity with trials and scientist interaction
START To Discover aims to make STEM learning engaging and accessible for all primary school children in Ireland, fuelling a new generation of scientific curiosity and discovery. The project builds on two successful projects by University of Galway - the ‘START (Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials) Competition’ and the 'Meet the Scientist Webinar Series'. 


The 'Meet the Scientist Webinar Series' lets children interact with real scientists, hearing about their jobs and careers, asking questions, and learning about the different paths in STEM. These webinars encourage children to see themselves in these roles, sparking curiosity and ambition.


The 'START Competition' gives children the chance to become scientists themselves. They work together to create, carry out, and report on their own science experiments, learning about how research works and experiencing the excitement of discovery.


The project team, led by Dr Sandra Galvin, aim to bring in a wider range of professionals for the webinars, providing more resources for schools participating in the competition, and finding new ways to involve and inspire more children. 



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