A Cork DEIS school has just two weeks to find a sponsor to help get them to Kentucky after winning the chance to represent Ireland on the world stage of an international robotics competition.
Primary school students at Scoil na Croise Naofa in Mahon, Cork city, were recently crowned the national champions in the Dell Vex Robotics finals, held at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) last week.
As well as taking home four national titles, the successful students also received a place at the Vex Robotics World Finals to be held in Louisville, Kentucky in April.
“Initially, we didn’t even realise that the first prize involved travelling to Kentucky," said Ciara Bowe, principal of Scoil na Croise Naofa. "It was only after the competition was over, it was pointed out to us on social media."
The national STEM competition sees students from across Ireland design and build robots, while learning key skills in coding, engineering and researching.
“The team is just over the moon with their win. They are so hardworking, and they represented the school so well," she added. “They even started coming in early to work on their project before school. That was their own doing, teachers weren’t asking them to or telling them to, I should add. They also spent lunchtimes and after school working on their project.
“They really have a phenomenal work ethic, and we’re thrilled to see it. As teachers, you are always trying to instil in students that if you work hard, you’ll improve and see the benefits.”
With no additional funding available from the Department of Education, the school has worked out that it will cost roughly €20,000 for the team of students and their teachers to travel to compete.
Scoil na Croise Naofa is a DEIS band 1 school, which means it is designated as a disadvantaged school. "I really don't know any family who would be in a position to fork out almost €2,000 six weeks after Christmas and coming up to confirmations," Ms Bowe said.
"We're like any other school, operating on reduced budgets following cut-backs. As a school, we can't pull €20,000 from our own budget to benefit a team of 15 students. Any decision we make has to benefit all our pupils.
"But we are so proud of our team. They have represented their school, their families and the area of Mahon so well. We don't want to get their hopes up in case we can't travel, but if an athlete earns a spot in the Olympics, they need sponsorship too, and this is similar to that. We're trying hard not to limit them.
“We will try our best to get them there, it will just be massive for them. We’ve set a deadline of a fortnight to try and get a corporate sponsor to come on board. We have to get it set in stone by the beginning of March because we have to book flights, accommodation and we’ve child safeguarding procedures to sort out. We need to know in the next two weeks, so we really hope to get the backing of a corporate sponsor.”