Eureka moment

BT Young Scientists of the Year 2013 winners Emer Hickey, Sophie Healy-Thow and Ciara Judge at the official opening of the Eureka Centre. Photograph: John Sheehan

BT Young Scientists of the Year 2013 winners Emer Hickey, Sophie Healy-Thow and Ciara Judge at the official opening of the Eureka Centre. Photograph: John Sheehan

Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 01:00

Forensics, physics and strawberry DNA are among the scientific delights engaging primary- and secondary-school students at a new centre for inquiry-based education in science and mathematics at UCC. The Eureka Centre, launched earlier this year by Minister for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock, provides a learning zone between the university and future scientists.

Two custom-built labs designed and equipped to teach science in second-level biology, chemistry and physics are where the magic happens. “We have every sort of piece of equipment needed for primary and secondary science,” said centre manager Dr Jill Haynes.

The centre was developed at a cost of more than €500,000 and with the assistance of the Strategic Innovation Fund, UCC, British Telecom and PharmaChemical Ireland.

“Students at all levels from primary school through to Leaving Cert, teachers and industrial partners are now involved,” said Dr Haynes.

The centre has a “two-pronged approach” offering training for second-level science teachers as well as instruction for primary and secondary students. “What we do isn’t strictly aligned with the school syllabus,” explains Dr Haynes. “We want students to experience science out of the classroom, especially at primary level. They want to get on those goggles and white coats, and have some fun with science.”

Topics aligned with the syllabus are taken for secondary students, however. The project is also integrated with UCC’s access office to work closely with Deis-nominated schools.

“We all have a responsibility to show people that Stem is part of everyday life,” says Dr Haynes. “New inventions are born of science and engineering, and everything is getting smaller and faster.

“Science, technology, engineering and maths are part of everyday life and the younger you can engage with children the better. It’s really great to watch, they are so knowledge-thirsty.”

Gavin Collins