STEM Role Models from Industry Inspire Next Generation of Limerick Scientists

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Colaiste Mhichil Mark AshworthStudents from Coláiste Mhichíl with their Futurewize Certificates of Achievement

Students from Ardscoil Mhuire and Coláiste Mhichil recently completed the STEM based Futurewize programme supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). More than 250 students in the Limerick Region will participate in Futurewize the 2018/19 school year.

Declan Crotty, Teacher in Colaiste Mhichil, said: “The students were very engaged with the different sessions every week. The students enjoyed working with volunteer Mark and participated well with all of the activities. It was a very enjoyable experience.”

Originally launched in 2016, the classroom-based Futurewize programme is aimed at inspiring young Junior Cycle students to explore a new world of career possibilities that are opened up through the study of STEM-related subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). An evaluation of the first phase of the Futurewize programme showed that 77 percent of student participants are now interested in studying STEM-related subjects after school, while 99 percent of participating teachers would recommend it to colleagues. On foot of these encouraging results additional funding was secured from the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme.

Designed by JAI and developed for delivery in classrooms by business volunteers, this year 3,500 students across 150 classes will complete the Futurewize programme facilitated by 150 trained volunteers from STEM-related roles.  The programme will continue to involve no fewer than 60 percent female participation levels.

By the end of 2019, it is estimated that nearly 24,000 students nationwide will have completed the Futurewize programme in combination with the Smart Futures module, which is also promoted as a function of the collaboration between SFI and JAI. Futurewize is aligned with the strands of the Junior Cycle science curriculum, and the physical, biological, and chemical worlds; and Earth and Space complement government policy including the aims of the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 and the National Skills Strategy 2025.

Having trained role models from industry working with 13-14 year olds in their own classrooms once a week for five weeks, Futurewize aims to show Junior Cycle students the importance and relevance of STEM related subjects. These role models from industry share their own real-life experiences as they work through the Futurewize modules.      

Research on the ‘role model effect’ has indicated the strong influence that a positive role model, particularly for girls, can play in changing perceptions and dispelling gender-stereotypes in STEM careers.

Commenting on its support for the Futurewize programme up to the end of 2019, Margie McCarthy, Interim Director of Innovation and Education at Science Foundation Ireland, said: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support Junior Achievement Ireland in running Futurewize, a fantastic initiative funded by the SFI Discover Programme. Joining forces with Smart Futures, Futurewize demonstrates the diverse STEM career opportunities available to students in Ireland by creating a space in which they can interact with superb role models. Encouraging these meaningful interactions empowers and inspires young people to start thinking about their future study and career paths, allowing them to learn of real life workplace experiences and to kick-start their journeys towards becoming the innovators of the future.”

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