The Ballinderry Sword.

Midlands Science Festival goes virtual for Science Week

For the first time in its eight-year history, the Midlands Science Festival is as a week-long, immersive digital event as part of national Science Week (November 8-15). The core theme for Science Week 2020 which is now in its 25th year is ‘Science Week – Choosing our Future’ focusing on how science can improve our lives.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman, said: “The theme this year will explore how science can help us to make positive choices that will affect the environment, our health, and our quality of life.

“We took the time to evaluate the situation as an organisation before deciding that a virtual festival really was the best way forward for Science Week 2020. It allows us to provide most of the events that we had already planned for our audiences, in a safe and secure manner.

“This year we are inviting people to step inside a free, virtual science sphere to join top science communicators, workshop presenters, industry experts, science ambassadors and more.

"Throughout Science Week there will be a variety of ways for you to get involved through events, social media and much more. You can also use and follow #BelieveInScience online.”

Some of the highlights are an inspiring journey into Space with Dr Niamh Shaw, public talks on the ‘Science of Resilience’ and the ‘Science of Skin’, which will be available online, and a look at the exciting world of Star Wars with Jon Chase.

“We are also delighted to be providing a range of high-level, virtual career talks for secondary schools with some of our industry and academic partners, which we hope will encourage more and more students to consider science as a future course and career option,” said Ms Gorman.

This year also includes an exploration into Viking heritage with the National Museum of Ireland and a family Discovery Day, which will see the return of some of much-loved activities such Dale Treadwell’s Dinosaur Show, Anyone 4 Science, the Exploration Dome, The Reptile Zoo, Ironman Engineering/Superhero Science and Dr Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience.

Two unique, digital activities in Westmeath are part of a collaboration with the National Museum of Ireland, and in partnership with the Heritage Office of Westmeath County Council.

Siobhan Pierce, education and outreach officer, Archaeology and Natural History at National Museum of Ireland, said: “We are bringing a special online event to a school in the midlands for Science Week and we are also looking forward to delivering a family workshop to wider communities in Westmeath, which will explore our rich Viking heritage.

“We will host this event live from the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, where we will interact with Athlone primary school pupils so that they can learn about what archaeology can tell us about the arrival of the Vikings to Ireland and their impact on Westmeath.

“Our family workshop will be hosted live with National Museum of Ireland educator Trisha Ryan and will show Viking material found in Dublin and Viking finds from Ballinderry Crannog (at Moyvoughly bog, east of Moate), including a sword and gaming board.

“This event was specially created for children 7-12 years old and we are looking forward to interacting with as many people as possible on the day.”

Melanie McQuade, Westmeath heritage officer, said: “These events are a fantastic opportunity to promote science education to Westmeath pupils and families as we examine the archaeological evidence for the arrival to the Viking activity in Ireland and in particular Westmeath.

“Most Viking finds from Ballinderry and other rural sites reflect everyday activities and include tools used in spinning, weaving and sewing and tools and utensils of wood, iron and bronze. Ballinderry, however, also produced a number of exceptional finds, which we will learn about on the day of the workshop.”

(The school event and the family event, Virtual Vikings, are on November 10.)