St Joseph's STEM Super Heroes

St Joseph's STEM Super Heroes

Students from St Joseph’s Secondary School Rush Become SciFest STEM Super-Heroes

By Helen Teehan, St Joseph’s Secondary School, Rush, Co. Dublin

Having made enquiries in January about hosting a SciFest@School for the first time and following an encouraging email from Sheila Porter we decided to go for it. The initial information meeting was held in a packed Room 43. The teachers were delighted with the enthusiasm shown by the students.

Mr Dunne set up the now obligatory Schoology Group SciFest@STJR with the encouraging message, “one of you will be the first winner of SciFest@STJR”. Weekly meetings were held, ideas developed, plans made and surveys piloted. Eventually taking all the variables into account (but mainly when could we use the hall) a date was set. Friday March 1st, 2019 was chosen as the Inaugural SciFest @STJR. Time flew because before we knew it midterm break was over and panic set in ...and stayed.

Messages and emails pinged. Science Club Room 43 was not as crowded as it had been! Was this going to happen at all? The voice of reason prevailed. Sheila said she was sending a teacher’s pack and a judge, Catherine Tattersall, and encouraged us to go ahead with what we had, that everything had to start somewhere. So, we took courage and kept going.

We blew up the balloons, provided by SciFest, relocated to the Lab and set up the room to display our ten projects. We calmed the first and second year students down, made sure everybody had a poster and told them they were great. Which of course they were; they had drawn graphs and diagrams, taken photographs and analysed surveys. There was an impressive array of technical skills on display to say nothing of the file and photo sharing: Key Skills rehearsed most definitely. An enduring SciFest ethos of inclusivity meant that everyone would get their opportunity to tell all to the judges in the morning.

The day arrived bringing Catherine and an impressive box of tricks, badges, pens and clipboards for judges and the all-important SciFest awards and rosettes. The excitement had been building all morning but now reached a new height as the SciFest banner was unfurled and displayed prominently.

Mr Dunne’s TY group and recent BTYSE competitors formed groups of student assessors, two staff members magnanimously gave up their free class to act as judges under Catherine’s expert eye. The day had arrived. Students grew in confidence all morning, at the change of class other teachers arrived to see what all the excitement was about. All the participants felt part of something new and exciting, the junior students competing, the TYs supporting and judging and the staff members judging and chatting to the students. The Judges took their responsibilities seriously and after much discussion the top projects were selected. The students were so delighted and took justifiable pride in walking up to accept their awards. The event was definitely a huge success and both the students and teachers from St Joseph’s would highly recommend any school hosting a SciFest@School STEM fair. Just do it.

Having completed the SciFest@School our next milestone was to get all the entries in online to SciFest@College by 8 March. This was hard work, but we managed to get the entries in on time and set about improving the projects before the big day. Thirty-one students submitted 15 projects to TU Dublin City Campus, Kevin Street which was to be held on Friday, 5th April.

There was great excitement on the day. Every one of the students shone brightly and did St Joseph’s proud, showing themselves to be real STEM Super-Heroes. Well done, in particular, to the junior students (first and second years) who were taking part in their first big Science Competition. The day was filled with judging sessions, SwitchonSTEM activities and Smart Futures Career Talks. The award ceremony began at 2pm and we waited in anticipation to see who had won the various trophies and awards.

The first students from St Joseph’s to be called up on stage were first years Aaron, Oskar and Ciaran who were presented with TU Dublin Student Ambassadors’ Certificates for their enthusiastic engagement with science. Later on, Emma and Aoibhin, also in first year were awarded the Newstalk Best Communicator Award. This award is presented to recipients who have demonstrated exceptional ability in effectively communicating their findings to the judges both orally and visually. The Science Department is so proud of both girls. Their project: 2Renewable Energy - We’re Fans” certainly wowed the judges.

TY students Luke and Kieran were next up on stage to collect the Intel Award. Their project “Developing a motion generated indicator for cyclists” had won the Technology Section of the competition.” Fifth years Aminat, Caitlin and Amiina looked stunned when they were announced as winners of an inaugural Specsavers Making a Difference Award. These modest young ladies entered a project “Seeing is Believing: Measuring the impact of a UV awareness activity”. This award is presented to the project that in the “eyes” (sorry, girls) of the Judges best demonstrates how the results of the project could make a difference to the day-to-day lives of an individual or group of people. The girls made a very compelling case and are worthy winners of this award. Stand tall. Their success here at Regional level affords them the opportunity to resubmit this project for consideration by a panel of judges and compete for the Specsavers Grand Award at the National Final in November 2019. We wish them well.

Finally, the Science Foundation Ireland Best Project Award was announced. Eyewitness reports of Mr Dunne jumping around punching the air are completely true. Daniel was called up on stage to accept this trophy, the culmination of months of work. Daniel is a stellar student who commits wholeheartedly to everything he gets involved in. The judges could not in our opinion have selected a worthier winner. Daniel as a Best Project Award Winner will automatically go forward to represent St Joseph’s Secondary School in the National Final on 22nd Nov 2019. His project “Seal Whiskers – Bioinspiration for Oceantech” could potentially reach an international audience. He will compete in November 2019 for the SciFest 2019 Science Foundation Ireland ISEF Award, a chance to represent Ireland at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Anaheim, California in May 2020. Challenge accepted.

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