A returned east Cork emigrant is to open an innovative Lego-driven STEM education centre in his home town.
Youghal native Maurice Healy, a former maths teacher who has worked in the US, Australia, South Africa, Wales and London, will initially create three full-time jobs at the designed-for-purpose riverside accommodation on Allin’s Quay.
The East Cork STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Academy will use Lego’s education module which aligns the company’s construction kits with advanced computer technology to create real-world challenges based on the four disciplines.
The company provides tutor training courses as well as a range of age-specific syllabi for courses. An investment of over €80,000 will see over 260 children enrolled per term.
Predominantly working in pairs, children are given a specialised Lego set, a laptop and any one of a vast array of projects.
Maurice said they may be tasked with building a robot with colour and distance sensors.
First they must programme the robot so we also give them coding instructions, which will become second nature to them," he said. “Once the robot is built, they will learn how technology might relate to the real world, such as measurement sensors when a car reverses.
"Or we might disable the build for them to locate and correct a fault. But the beauty of it is that it is all about fun –teaching by stealth.”
The children become comfortable with the knowledge and skills required to survive and progress in a world increasingly dominated by STEM-related conglomerates like Apple, Google and Facebook.
The academy will also provide courses for children with additional needs, such as those on the autistic spectrum.
Maurice and his partner Sian discovered the Lego module when researching programmes to bring STEM tuition to their own two teenage boys on the autistic spectrum.