Last Thursday (15th November), when the sun went down and suburban Dublin was plunged into its nightly darkness, a selection of eager students, accompanied by several teachers: Mr Moriarty, Ms Grogan, Ms McKeon and Ms Lennon, ventured down the dark and mysterious highways, not so far from here to a beautiful, magical place by the name of Dunsink Observatory. This was all part of Science Week 2012.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a truly lovely lady, Hilary. We passed several pieces of century old astronomical equipment, small pocket telescopes similar to those first used by Galileo Galilei, measuring equipment and guestbooks originating from the 1800s. We were then exposed to the stories of two magnificent men with quite the stories to tell: Brendan Boulter, a senior consultant in Dell's Cloud Computing R&D Centre in Dublin who has developed software for ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Paul Dawson of DIAS (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies). We were told about the incredible images caught by the Hubble telescope such as nebulae which are cascading clouds of dust from which new stars and planets.
We were given a brief history of Dunsink Observatory, its origin, its near demise and its resurrection; saved by Eamon de Valera who had discovered a new love for the cosmos and longed for the passion to live on. We were also told of the history of the building, its intricate semi-spherical rooftops and the South Observatory.
After these presentations, we were summoned outside to the South Observatory. Paul had a fantastic hat and moustache and told all of us younglings about where the telescope had come from, why it was there and how it was once the largest of its kind. Tragically, due to the dense cloud cover, attempts at viewing our celestial sphere would have proved futile. We were shown, however, the mechanical roof, how it opens at one given point and is rotated to align at any point with the telescope and chosen area of the sky.
The 5th Year Physics class also appeared out of the mist with a cake for their classmate, Katie Dawson, whose birthday occurred on this day. A beautiful few moments ensued.
A wondrous time was had by all and all were enlightened about Ireland’s contribution to astronomical research. We wish to thank Mr. Brendan Boulter, Mr. Paul Dawson, Hilary O’Donnell-Sullivan, Anne Grace-Casey and Eileen Flood for their hospitality and for giving us a truly memorable evening.
Eleanor Hulm, 5th Year
TEAGASC FOOD RESEARCH CENTRE VISIT by Caoimhe Laird Phelan and Aoife Gormley
On the 13th November 2012, as part of Science Week 2012, the 5th Year Home Economic students went to an open day called "Everyday Food Science" for secondary school students in the Ashtown Food Research Centre.
When we entered the research building, we heard a quick opening speech from Dr. Declan Troy, Teagasc Assistant Director of Research. He introduced us to the work of the centre and he spoke about the importance of the food industry in the economy. He outlined the expected growth in the dairy and beef industries. He spoke about recent job announcements in the area of food science and research.
Then a pop-quiz was prepared for us by the staff in the centre titled "What do you know about food?" This was enjoyable and very interesting. One of the interesting things we learned is that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone but the food isn't evenly distributed so that is why so many people are starving and obesity is increasing in other areas. After the quiz, we were brought into a lab where fungi were being studied by a scientist called Brian McGuiness. In the lab we gave samples of our fingerprints to be analysed for fungi and bacteria and we can expect the results back within the next week. A presentation was also given to us on the importance of hand washing and food safety. Next we did some sensory analysis testing where we tasted three glasses of orange juice and we had to determine which one was different from the other two. This was fun because most of our answers were wrong! The scientists in the next laboratory were studying seaweed. This was interesting because they were extracting the functional ingredients from the seaweed and they hope that these can be used as an ingredient in bread and that they will reduce the risk of some types of cancer.
My favourite part of the day came last when we were brought into a room with a presentation on consumer research and product marketing. I enjoyed this the most because it involved putting ourselves in the position of consumer and altering products to suit the wants and needs of the consumer. One of the exercises in this part of the tour was to organise and take part in a focus group. The topic we discussed was how to encourage people to use the stairs instead of a lift. After a while we came up with lots of different ideas. We were then shown a video of a stairs in Denmark where they made it into a piano to encourage people to take the stairs instead of the escalator. This session taught us that you have to use your imagination and think outside the box – especially if trying to get people to change their behaviour.
Overall we enjoyed the day immensely and some of us have been inspired to consider careers in the food industry when we leave school.
www.qualifax.ie has an events calendar for all those Sixth Year students wishing to avail of any open days available before the CAO application deadline.
All Hallows College, Colaiste Mhuire-Marino Institute of Education, Mater Dei Institution of Education, St. Patrick's College-Drumcondra and UCD all have an open day this Saturday (17/11/12).