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Engaging Energy Citizens on the value of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math

NexSys completes 6-weeks of STEM engagement 

NexSys researchers and team members have just completed a six-week programme of public engagement, funded by SFI’s Discover Programme. 

The programme, called Little Big Questions, engaged primary school children from the Travelling community with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The children, aged 8-12, visited UCD and took part in experiments and activities ranging from pH testing, eye colour experiments, space and rocket science, energy, motors and circuits, to the research process itself.

The activities were coordinated by staff from NexSys, Insight, UCD Discovery Institute, with collaboration allowing for a diversity of STEM activities for primary school children.

NexSys researchers were involved in presentations to the primary school visitors as part of NexSys’s EPE programme.  

“In any classroom, you will find a wide range of interests. A varied programme of activities that speaks to the diversity of things to study and careers to pursue from STEM translates into more opportunities to connect with young people and their individual interests,” said Lorna Byrne, NexSys Education & Public Engagement Officer.

Associate Professor Julie Byrne, EPE Champion and Finance Theme Lead for NexSys, said: “Young learners who visit UCD for these programmes get to hear from early and advanced career researchers. There is a great sense of connection in the room as they learn about why these researchers are interested in what they are, and who they are as people. 

“Lorna facilitates an environment that enables PhD students and faculty to be accessible role models. Those participating in such events receive powerful messages along with some very cool learning experiences in our outreach labs. As researchers, we all learn the difference between ‘dumbing down’ and ‘simplifying’ our messages about the power of science in providing solutions to real-world problems,” said Julie.

Professor Andrew Keane, Director of NexSys and the UCD Energy Institute, said: “The energy transition affects everyone, and perhaps particularly the youngest generations. By engaging younger generations on the role of energy, we hope to empower the next generation of energy citizens to make evidence-based decisions, and inspire them to become curious about research in general.”

Children, teachers and organisers on the final day of the programme.

Children, teachers and organisers on the final day of the programme.

Lorna was recently awarded a UCD College of Engineering & Architecture Teaching & Learning Award. The award, which was made in November 2022, recognised Lorna’s ‘exceptional contribution to learning’ through workshops conducted in 2021/2022.

The programme ran with schools from across Dublin and engaged 8-12 year olds in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).  

About the NexSys EPE programme

The EPE vision for the NexSys programme is to define the pathways to a net zero energy system by 2040 with the Energy Citizen at the core. This means creating opportunities to engage with a wide range of stakeholders and decision makers across relevant sectors. 

NexSys’ EPE activities range from educating school children on the role of energy, inspiring generations of curious researchers, as well as engaging with policy makers and industry stakeholders in supporting evidence-based decision making.


Hosted By: University College Dublin Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
E: nexsys@ucd.ie