Midlands Science Festival

Science Week is a nationwide initiative to ignite interest, engagement and uptake in STEM subjects in Irish schools, universities and educational centres. It ran this year from November 12-19th.

As part of Science Week, Camara Ireland took part in the Midlands Science Festival. This has taken place across Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath over the past six years. Four members of the Camara Ireland team – Aidan Fitzmaurice, Paul Amond, Eoghan Keegan and James Lockwood – were part of a Google-funded initiative to promote Computer Science in schools across those counties. Using the CS First platform and Scratch, over 400 students and 70 educators across 8 schools were introduced to Computer Science and coding!

Our tutors visited a primary school and a secondary school in each of the four counties for the day to deliver fun, interactive sessions to students, aged 7-12, using the CS First platform. CS First allows students to get coding straight away and allows students to move at their own pace with videos guiding students through a series of activities and themes. From designing their own Google Doodle to creating interactive stories, students had a great time learning about Scratch and how to make their own programs.

On top of these sessions, teachers, parents, youth workers and other staff were given an introduction to Computer Science and CS First, so they may continue to support students in their schools. Computer Science is a subject that’s growing in popularity across Ireland and with the new Leaving Certificate pilot course, it won’t be long until more schools and students want to get on board. CS First is incredibly easy to get started on as a teacher and you can set up a club within 10 minutes. The fact that students are guided by videos means you don’t have to be an expert – all you need is an enthusiasm for the ideas and give the activities a go for yourself! Free resources are available and training can be found both online or can be done in person if you can get a group of interested educators.

We as tutors had a great time delivering the sessions and the students loved doing something a bit different for the day. It was definitely a case of them not wanting to leave when the session was done!

For those teachers who supported delivery of the sessions, they could see how engaging the platform is and there was a real enthusiasm to see how Computer Science, coding and CS First could be carried on after the session. Hopefully, this can be the start of some new things in the schools and those students who have a passion for it will get more opportunities to code and experiment with Computer Science!

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