STEM Lab and Makerspace

Errigal College has opened an innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and coding lab, sponsored by Optum Ireland and UK.

A five-year partnership with Optum has enabled the school to create a bespoke lab within an existing computer classroom which will serve to further promote STEM and coding, particularly amongst female students.

The idea for the lab came from Coding, Geography and English teacher David McHale who, along with the school’s Coding and Computer Science department, has been working closely with SG Education to design a space for hands-on experiential learning with all the tools needed for creativity. Supplied by SG Education and designed by Leo Scarff Design, the room maximises the use of available space and provides a safe, easily managed and shared learning and making environment which allows for growth and development.

Speaking about this exciting development, the Donegal ETB school Principal Danny McFadden said, “This lab will allow students to create their own ideas and have fun while learning new skills, with a particular focus on making the STEM experience engaging and interactive. The lab will allow students to work both individually and together to be creative and use problem solving skills and will benefit them in their other classes by enhancing their creativity and many other skills.”

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STEM launch Errigal College. Photo -Clive Wasson

He continued, “One of the goals is to actively promote STEM subjects and careers with a particular emphasis on female students. Research suggests that if girls continue to be engaged and interested in computer science towards the latter stages of post-primary school, they are more likely to pursue college courses in the subject: we have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of women and encourage girls to see themselves as successful in the STEM areas early in the education process.”

Errigal College has been at the forefront of curricular change with all junior students study coding and the recent successful introduction of Leaving Certificate Computer Science. This new STEM lab will inspire future innovation, strengthen links with local industry and promote pathways to further and higher education.

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Padraig Monaghan, Managing Director, Optum Ireland and UK noted“Optum Ireland is delighted to fund this innovative facility which will enhance the delivery of STEM in Errigal College and its associated primary schools. As a local employer, our aim is to encourage wider participation in tech to ensure that all our young people have the necessary skills to pursue STEM careers in the region and further afield. Supporting this new facility in Errigal College advances this objective.”

Adam Doherty, a former pupil of Errigal College student and now an Optum Ireland Healthcare Scholar, will be the ambassador for the STEM lab. Adam is currently studying applied computing in ATU Donegal and will also contribute to the workshops to be delivered in the new facility.

Speaking about this industry partnership, Donegal ETB’s Director of Schools Dr Martin Gormley said, “I am delighted that Optum have come on board to support Errigal College in this initiative. This facility will help the students of Errigal College to gain the knowledge and skills they need to navigate an ever-evolving digital world successfully. The outcomes from this project will enable the students to be fully equipped with key digital skills that should open up opportunities for learning and get the most from their education experience. I know our staff and students are very excited about the future.”