Success on the World Stage

Success on the World Stage

SciFest: An opportunity to take STEM from the classroom to the world stage

The SciFest programme is by its design grassroots in its organisation. SciFest encourages local schools to host their own SciFest@School fair. This allows a true reflection of the development of the STEM talent pipeline in the country. Most importantly, the programme ensures opportunities for students to develop their ideas further with the regional SciFest@College fairs and the SciFest National Final. The jewel in the crown of the SciFest programme is its affiliation with Society for Science’s International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in the USA. Since SciFest first took part in ISEF eight years ago, twelve major awards have been won by participating students. This is a fantastic achievement and is testament to the standard of work by the students, the drive of Irish science teachers and the inclusive and encouraging model of the SciFest programme. SciFest may be grassroots, but it allows top talent to grow and ultimately flourish in the toughest and most competitive of environments on a world stage.

Adam Kelly from Skerries Community College in Dublin took seamlessly to this international platform with his phenomenal project concerning an open source solution to simulating quantum computing that is up to 15 times faster than conventional simulations. Adam won the Dudley R. Herschbach SIYSS Award which is one of the top three awards at ISEF. This means he will be one of 25 students who will participate in the week-long Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS) which includes attendance at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm in December. His success did not stop there; he also received a first prize in his category, Systems Software for which he will have an asteroid named after him, and a Best in Category Award. Adam received a total of $8,000 for himself, $1,000 for his school and $1,000 for SciFest.

The 2018/2019 academic year represented a year of significant growth for SciFest, with 99 fairs taking place across the island of Ireland and over 10,000 students participating across all levels of the programme. One particularly exciting addition was a new travel award presented at the SciFest National Final, The Broadcom MASTERS Award. This new award saw five junior cycle students, ranging in age from 12 to 14, compete for the opportunity to participate in the Broadcom MASTERS International programme which included a visit to ISEF. The students who qualified to compete for the award were all recipients of the ISTA award at SciFest@College fairs. It demonstrated another great opportunity, particularly for younger students, to blossom and ignite a passion for STEM. The inaugural award was won by Éabha Kenny, from Scoil Muire gan Smál, Convent of Mercy, Roscommon Town. Éabha travelled with her mother to Phoenix, Arizona to take part in the programme in May which ran in parallel with ISEF. The programme included visits to incredible places like Arizona State University and a chance to do some fun

experiments at the Desert Botanical Gardens. Éabha counts herself particularly lucky as the programme was limited to only 27 students from around the world and that the Broadcom MASTERS programme is quite literally once-in-a-lifetime, as you can only partake one time. She recounts:

I made some great friends who I still talk to and I found a lot more to science than you would get in the classroom.’

Reflecting on the programme, Éabha believed it transcended her love of Science and above all would be an amazing experience for anyone:

‘Anyone interested in science should definitely compete for the Broadcom Award through SciFest, and even if science isn’t your thing, you should still give it a try. What you see at the Broadcom is a whole new world, and completely different to classroom work.’

An additional travel opportunity the SciFest programme offers is the Berlin Long Night of Science Award at the SciFest National Final. This year’s winner, Odhran Brady from Salesian College in Celbridge, travelled to Berlin to witness first-hand the Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften, where once per year in June, the Berlin science community opens its doors to the public. Thanks to the support of the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Odhran was lucky enough to visit numerous Universities, try real lab equipments and even sit in on lectures given to students on the Internet of Things. Odhran reflects that this:

Gave me a real feel as to what it was like to actually to be student in a busy college. I must admit that I could only understand bits of the lecture and came away knowing that I have a lot to learn!

In addition, Odhran got a chance to immerse himself in Berlin and visit such incredible sites as the Reichstag and Checkpoint Charlie. Overall Odhran felt the trip was:

an action packed four days, and overall a wonderful experience, and one that I will always remember – never know may even end up going back to visit the Berlin universities for real in the years ahead!’

All of the travel awards ensure unique opportunities for STEM to be brought to life beyond the classroom. Students like Adam, Éabha and Odhran and all participants in SciFest are truly afforded the opportunity to visualize themselves in the world of STEM beyond second-level education. Each of these trips illustrates the global nature of STEM and the fantastic places both figuratively and literally STEM can take us. SciFest offers all students a chance to partake in this journey from local school fairs to the international stage. This journey for our students is an important one, as it is with continuous and long-term engagement with STEM in the classroom and beyond that true passion is cultivated.

And so, the journey continues. This year on Friday November 22, students will once again be able to compete for the SciFest 2019 SFI ISEF Grand Award, Berlin Long Night of Science Award and the Broadcom MASTERS award and continue that growing tradition of representing Ireland at the highest level in STEM.

09 2020
SciFest@School in Meánscoil Iognáid Rís, Naas CBS, Naas, Co. Kildare
19 2020
SciFest National Final
25 2021
SciFest@School in Clongowes Wood College, Clane, Co. Kildare
Michael D. Higgins, Patron of SciFest
SciFest is a registered charity.

Michael D. Higgins
© 2020 SciFest