STEM Beacon School

In 2018, Presentation Secondary School Castleisland, Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál Castleisland, Scoil Íde, Curranes and Gaelscoil Mhic Easmainn, Tralee officially launched their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) digital excellence cluster.

Presentation Secondary School Castleisland has been chosen as a beacon school to demonstrate the innovative use of digital technologies in teaching, learning and assessment, through clusters of schools collaborating on a specific STEM project. Significant investment and resources have been deployed to support the purchase of this technology by the Department of Education as a part of Digital School Excellence Fund.

Students of Presentation Castleisland are trained to become STEM role models for younger female students in primary schools. The STEM role models have visited all three primary schools twice this year, first they lead a fun filled Chromatography experiment in which the primary students used Science skills to solve a mystery. The second visit was more technology based with the use of LegoWedo kits. Both activities proved to be a great success. It is hoped, by engaging in activities like these, that students of Presentation Castleisland will aspire to eventually pursuing STEM-related careers having had the opportunity to engage with 3rd level academic centres of excellence such as IT Tralee & UCC. We are very fortunate to have been chosen as the only secondary school in Kerry to participate in the Digital School Excellence programme.

The funding recognises excellence and allows the cluster schools to promote areas of STEM among female students. The project aims to develop a more positive attitude to STEM subjects in general amongst females within the cluster at primary and secondary level; to enhance students digital literacy skills, particularly in the area of Maths and Science; to increase the uptake of Chemistry and Physics at senior level in second level; to improve students research, numeracy, problem-solving and teamwork skills; Increase the number of female entrants into STEM courses at 3rd level and to increase the competence and proficiency of teachers in the use of digital technology in their subject areas.

To date, students have been involved in a range of exciting activities including workshops based on chromatography, LegoWedo and bee bots. We also have taken part in the Vex Robotics, Space, Science and Engineering week, SciFest and Maths initiatives. Some students have also had the opportunity to attend the BT Young Scientist Exhibition, Dreamspace workshop as well as a trip to the BioPharma Facility in Cork and Astellas in Killorglin, Kerry.

Over the last number of years, our students have benefitted greatly from this programme by receiving talks both in person and virtually from a range of different STEM areas. Dr. Fiona Boyle form AgriTech, Katherine O’Sullivan a female engineer and Susan Enright lecturer at IT Tralee, Aine Mahon from Astellas. All these powerful women are leading the way in STEM and so inviting these speakers in we hope to encourage our students to follow in their footsteps. Our fifth and sixth year chemistry classes participate in a workshop called “spectroscopy in a suitcase” ran by PhD students from UCC every year. Demonstrators walked our students through high tech equipment used worldwide to help solve crimes.

Presentation Castleisland organised two showcase days. The first was addressed to primary school students who each showcased three projects from different STEM areas. Our STEM role models acted as judges and presented Certificates to all involved. We had two special guests on the day Linda from DigiWiz and Emily Brick from Athena Analytics. Our second day addressed our senior students. This showcase involved talks from STEM individuals from third level academic centres such as NUIG, CIT, LIT and MTU to give our students the opportunity to gain more information about the different STEM paths available to them. We have also invited different STEM companies to share their experience in the workplace. During this session, each person will tell us the story of their journey though STEM.

All activities mentioned above have been posted on our school website, blog and social media in order to promote the project in our local community. We look forward to another successful STEM year.