THE Atlantic Conference 2012, sponsored by Ericsson, took place on Thursday in Tullamore. Running since 2008, this event has become a key date in the calendar of those involved in education and enterprise with an interest in science and technology education.
The conference was officially opened by Minister for Research & Innovation at the Department of Enterprise, Jobs & Innovation, Sean Sherlock, TD.
The keynote address was delivered by Carol Lynne Parente, Executive Producer of Sesame Street. This iconic TV show has developed a whole range of new features in the past year with the specific objective of promoting greater interest in science and technology education among its young viewers.
She stressed that early intervention in the promotion of STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Maths) education is vital in creating an interest in science and technology subjects and that in most cases, this interest will last a lifetime. The colourful puppets that populate the show now take part in science experiments as well as their more familiar escapades.
In a wide-ranging address on the role of higher education in the economic and social development of Ireland, Chairperson of the Higher Education Authority John Hennessy stressed the need for industry and education to work together.
Other speakers at the conference included Ward Van Duffel, Managing Director of LEGO Education Europe and Marc Watson of TEQ Games. Leena Gade, Chief Racing Engineer of Audi Sports made a dramatic entrance to the conference arriving into the room in a Classic Audi Rally Car, a Quatro which will be taking part in the Dublin Street Car Rally later this year.
Leena had a car win the legendary Le Mans endurance race in 2011 and gave an inspiring talk about engineering. After her talk secondary school students who were present swarmed the stage asking for photos and autographs and they all started to tweet at the conference hashtag #stemcon that they all wanted careers in engineering and technology now.
Jackie Gorman, CEO of Atlantic Corridor also commented, “this year’s conference provided a unique opportunity for all those involved in the promotion of STEM education to share a number of different perspectives, all the way from pre-school to third level education and beyond. The enthusiasm of the delegates for STEM education was wonderful to see.”