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Schools Tech Talent Showcased at LOETB S.T.E.A.M. Awards.

There were big wins for secondary schools across Laois and Offaly at the inaugural Laois Offaly Education and Training Board (LOETB) S.T.E.A.M. Showcase event, held recently at Portlaoise College.

The showcase and awards were the climax of a new S.T.E.A.M. (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Maths) Programme for LOETB schools, where, as part of a partnership with Laois County Council and Offaly County Council, students in each of the nine LOETB schools were provided with €10,000 of equipment, training and supports in areas around coding, robotics, design, and podcasting.

On the day, special ceremonies took place to recognise the achievements of the students as part of the programme, with significant prizes, sponsored by Laois and Offaly County Councils, being awarded to students and their schools. MC for the event, Seanie Morris, commended the students for the ‘incredibly high quality’ of their entries, as he announced the finalists – and eventual winners – on the big screen.

The real highlight of the event, however, were the Showcase Stands for each school. This element of the day saw visitors get a chance to see some of the amazing work that the students created as part of the programme in their respective schools.

As well as building robots to compete in LEGO League and VEX Robotics competitions, each school also created Podcasts telling the stories of their communities, while also using Minecraft to create sustainable, accessible versions of their localities. Visiting the stands, guests had the chance to see and hear a range of podcasts and designs: everything from podcasts exploring the hidden history of Rathdowney, to virtual reimagining of the town of Portlaoise or the Clara Bog Visitor Centre in Minecraft. Through their work in the programme, each school and their students offered unique insights into how young people see and imagine their communities.

Dunamase College took top honours in the overall Podcast competition for their brilliant ‘Dunamase Diaries’ podcast. Portlaoise College and Tullamore College were named as worthy runners-up.
Clonaslee College won the prize for the Best Studio Brand, for their ‘Live from The Principal’s Office’ Studio.

Portlaoise College’s extraordinary reimagining of their town won the Minecraft strand of the programme, with CNC Kilcormac and Dunamase College close behind as runners-up.

Banagher College were the overall winners in the VEX Robotics Competition taking the Robotic Skills and Excellence awards.
St. Fergal’s Rathdowney were winners of the Design award.
Dunamase College and Oaklands College took home the Teamwork award.
Tullamore Collage picked up the Judges award.

In each case the overall winning school won €1,000 of S.T.E.A.M. equipment for their school and €500 of vouchers for the team themselves, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Laois and Offaly County Councils.

The Minecraft winners (Portlaoise College) also won a trip for their whole S.T.E.A.M. Club to Microsoft Dream Space in Dublin, thanks to the partnership with Microsoft in the Minecraft strand of the programme.

Tullamore College had previously emerged victorious in the First LEGO League robotics and coding strand of the competition, which took place in the LOETB F.E.T. Hub in February.

A number of representatives of the partners behind this new innovative project spoke at the event.

Director of Schools for LOETB, Linda Tynan, spoke about the amazing work presented by the students and described how so many aspects of the project were informed by the core values of LOETB: Care, Community, Equality, Respect and Excellence in Education.

LOETB Chief Executive, Joe Cunningham, praised all involved in the project, commenting particularly on the success of the partnership between the three organisations and the huge benefits that resulted for the young people involved.

Offaly County Council Chief Executive, Ann-Marie Delaney, commended all involved and referenced the ability of projects of this kind to be transformative for the communities involved in the long term.

Director of Services at Laois County Council, Angela McEvoy, spoke of how pleased Laois County Council were to be involved in a project of this kind, one that was making such an impact with the young people of our region.

Broadband Officer from Laois County Council, Antoinette Brennan, stated it was a very fruitful programme to be involved in and enjoyed the collaboration between both Councils, LOETB and their Secondary schools. The programme was designed and rolled out through lunch time and after school clubs and she complimented the schools for facilitating it, the teachers for their guidance, but most importantly to the students for their work , creativity, and vision across all 4 pillars of the programme. Antoinette thanked Portlaoise College for facilitation the Showcase Event and also acknowledged the work of her colleagues in organising the Event, Ray Bell and Dean Hodge from Offaly County Council and Terence O’Brien from the LOETB.


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