Some 200 schoolchildren from around the Cork region will go to college tomorrow to extract DNA from strawberries, study robotics, solve giant puzzles — and learn that maths and science are cool.
And as the children — aged between nine and 12 — enjoy the Sense About Maths (SAM) Curiosity Den at Cork Institute of Technology, 200 parents, teachers, school principals and industry leaders, will hear about the importance of encouraging girls as well as boys to engage in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at every level of the school system.
Running at CIT’s Nexus Hall from 6pm to 8pm this Thursday, SAM’s Curiosity Den is a showcase of “cool maths and science workshop demonstrations” for 4th, 5th and 6th class pupils.
According to organiser Gráinne Bagnall, kids will also enjoy Minecraft You Tubers, Stardome, Inflatable Gut and TipTapTap at the free event.
Ms Bagnall is the founder of the successful Sense About Maths primary schools outreach programme, in which industry mentors visit schools to engage children in fun maths lessons.
Girls are a special focus of the CIT event, Ms Bagnall said. She pointed to statistics showing that, in 2013, girls made up just 40% of STEM courses at university level and just 16% of entrants into Computer Science.
Yet, she says, Ireland offers tremendous career opportunities for STEM graduates of both sexes.
“We need to build our STEM Grads for future economy. I am a thorough believer that the earlier we start with educating our children, parents and educators of the latest programmes such as SAM Sense About Maths, BioCoderDojo, CoderDojo and TipTapTap, the better the future for all of us,” said Ms Bagnall, who is a former corporate head-hunter.
She said the idea of the Curiosity Den is to demonstrate the relevance of maths by showing how it is key to the different challenges they confront in the Den.
“The event is aimed at boys and girls — we want to show that it’s just as cool for girls to enjoy maths as it is for boys,” she said, adding that there was already a “huge waiting list of schools” for the next SAM Curiosity Den event, expected to be in the coming months.
The 200 adults attending the session, will hear about the importance of STEM from a panel of formidable speakers including Dara Murphy, junior minister for data protection; Marianne Lee, director of analysis and financial planning at Trend Micro and Young Scientist 2015 winner, Ciara Judge from Kinsale Community School.
Statistics on the low entry of girls to STEM subjects will be among the topics discussed by Caroline O’Driscoll of KPMG and vice chair of IT@Cork, a membership body for Cork tech companies.
“The emphasis will be on showing parents the need to encourage rather than discourage girls to go into the STEM sector,” said Ms Bagnall, who said the Den was being held in CIT because the college was “a big supporter of the move to promote the STEM sector to schoolchildren of all ages”.
She paid tribute to Orla Flynn, vice president of external affairs at CIT, and her team for their support in the initiative.
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