Students from Drumlea National School in Leitrim with STEMtacular founder Louise Gallager pictured taking part in a science workshop at the Department of Chemical Sciences, University of Limerick
Students from Drumlea National School in Leitrim with STEMtacular founder Louise Gallagher pictured taking part in a science workshop at the Department of Chemical Sciences, University of Limerick
Wednesday, 15 May 2024

A prize donated by University of Limerick’s Department of Chemical Sciences to the STEMtacular initiative has allowed primary school students to participate in science workshops in a state-of-the-art laboratory.

STEMtacular is an initiative set up to promote engagement with science in Leitrim, Roscommon, Longford, Cavan and Sligo.

The brainchild of UL graduate, Louise Gallagher-- who along with her husband Michael completed the BA in Biological Sciences with Concurrent Teacher Education in 2008—it was set up to allow students to engage in workshops and fun activities without the need to travel.

She explained: “I started STEMtacular as I had read a study that said County Leitrim had one of the lowest levels of engagement with science subjects in its schools. I wanted to provide students in Leitrim and the surrounding counties with the opportunity to engage with science in a fun way. Until STEMtacular, there were no similar opportunities for primary students to participate in science events unless they travelled to Dublin. The distance and high travel costs inhibited a lot of schools in our region from participating in those events.”

A chance encounter with UL staff members at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYS) in Dublin who were completing science demonstrations, encouraged Louise to ask if her alma mater would like to contribute a prize to the first ever STEMtacular Stem Fair event.

“I visited the BTYS this year with my son and had seen the demonstration set up by UL, I decided to reach out to them firstly for advice and secondly to see if they may be interested in getting involved with STEMtacular.”

The inaugural STEMtacular event, held on the 29 February in Ballinamore in Leitrim, showcased over 120 projects exhibited by 550 children from Leitrim, Roscommon, Cavan and Longford, with the Chemical Sciences Department at UL sponsored the prize for ‘Best School Project 2024’.

The winning school, St Mary’s National School in Drumlea in Leitrim, was selected by the judges as they had exhibited six projects of a high standard which looked at topics such as dairy farming and bees.

The prize consisted of a trip to UL to attend a chemical bonding and energy show that allowed the students to observe the unseen world of chemistry. Through workshops, they discovered the explosive energy locked away in sugar, how to release beautiful rainbow flames from metals, write messages for their friends with invisible ink and perform chemistry in a bag.

Twenty-one students from second to sixth class accompanied by two teachers from the school and Louise recently visited the University to take part in the activities.

Overseeing the activities on the day, Maria Munroe, Chief Technical Officer in the department expressed her delight that they could be involved with the initiative.

“We were delighted to support STEMtacular Science Festival in sponsoring the Best School Project category. It was very rewarding to see the curiosity, excitement, enjoyment and engagement from the students.”

Commenting after the visit, Louise said: “The visit to the University of Limerick was amazing. For most schools in our region, opportunities like that would not be readily available to them.

“The kids were in awe at the state-of-the-art laboratories and you could feel the excitement from them on the day as they donned their lab coats, eagerly asked questions and waited in anticipation for the next explosion! I have extremely fond memories of my time at UL and I would like to thank the University for its support.”

For more information see the STEMtacular website.