I-LOFAR Education Centre Launch

The I-LOFAR Education Centre in Birr was officially opened on 30th May 2019 by Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. 

The Education Centre was funded by the Department of Rural and Community Affairs in conjunction with Offaly County Council, Trinity College Dublin and Birr Scientific & Heritage Foundation Ireland. 

Cathaoirleach Cllr. Danny Owens, Offaly County Council addressed the guests and his speech follows below.

 A Dhaoine Uaisle,

On behalf of the elected members of Offaly County Council, I would like to welcome you all to Offaly - The Faithful County. In particular, I would like to welcome and thank Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell for taking the time to be with us here today, to officially launch the I-LOFAR Education Centre.

 My sincere thanks to Lord and Lady Rosse for co-hosting this launch and for their commitment to this truly collaborative project here in the grounds of Birr Castle.

 What a wonderful setting for an inspirational learning space. Here in Birr Castle Gardens and Science Centre, we are surrounded by the remarkable achievements in astronomy, engineering, scientific discovery, botany and photography.

 It is a great source of pride for Offaly people that Birr’s rich astronomical and science heritage garners such a worldwide reputation. The selection of Birr as the location for the I-LOFAR radio telescope marked a new chapter for scientific endeavour in Offaly, and an important development for Offaly and the Midlands Region.

 In addition to the benefits of having a cutting-edge science project in Offaly, having the I-LOFAR telescope in Birr opened up new possibilities for research, jobs, tourism and science education.

 As a result, Offaly County Council has been working Professor Peter Gallagher of DIAS; Trinity College Dublin; and the I-LOFAR Consortium to develop these opportunities. The I-LOFAR Education Centre that we are launching today is one outcome of that work.

 Offaly County Council applied for and was successful in securing a grant of €316,870 towards the development of I-LOFAR Education Centre, refurbishing Mount Palmer barn. The funding issued from the Department of Rural and Community Development under the Rural & Economic Development Zone (REDZ) Scheme. 

Our Local Enterprise Office within Offaly County Council liaised with Trinity College Dublin (on behalf of the I-LOFAR Consortium) to deliver the project. There were many people involved in the build, and all are to be commended. In particular, I would like to thank Orla Martin, Head of Enterprise for her work on this project. I would also like to thank Prof. Peter Gallagher, Mr. Joe McCauley, and Ms. Sandra Kenny, Project Manager Trinity College Estates and Facilities for all of their work on the project. 

In our funding application, we stated that the proposed Education Centre would be an Inspirational Learning Space. Seeing the completed I-LOFAR Education Centre, I believe that has been achieved. It is a wonderful space, completed to a high standard, and in a great setting overlooking the array. It is a credit to all involved. 

Among other things, the I-LOFAR Education Centre provides a home for STEM Education in Offaly. It augments the work undertaken by Midlands Science, Coderdojo and other initiatives such as the Offaly County Council supported VEX Robotics Initiative. Increasing the numbers of school children participating in STEM education is of strategic importance to Offaly and the Midlands Region. It will increase Science Capital and encourage students pursue careers in science and innovation here in the Midlands Region. 

To support and develop this project, we are also working on a new related project called STREAM Creative Suite. STREAM (which stands for Science, Technology, Research, Engineering, Arts and Maths), is where research and education will connect with businesses, to create jobs. This is another collaborative project, this time between Offaly County Council, Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Office Offaly, DIAS/I-LOFAR Consortium, Athlone Institute of Technology, and Industry in the Region. STREAM Creative Suite will provide researchers and businesses with hot desks, office space and training in data analytics and related topics. STREAM Creative Suite will open in Birr town later this year. 

There is a natural synergy between these projects. Researchers and visitors to Birr will have the opportunity to be inspired by Birr Castle’s rich heritage, learn about space science/STEM with fun, hands-on activities at the I-LOFAR Education Centre, and then see future career options in STREAM Creative Suite. 

The achievements to date are a tribute to collaboration, hard work, and shared vision.  As Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council, I would like to congratulate all involved. Offaly County Council and partners in the Midlands Region look forward to further collaboration, to harness the full potential of this exciting project for Offaly and the Midlands Region.

Offaly Co project partners at plaqueCllr. Danny Owens, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Ms. Anna Marie Delaney, Professor Peter Gallagher, Ms. Orla Martin

Cathaoirleach Presenting GiftMs Hazel Greene, Ms. Orla Martin, Cathaoirleach Cllr. Danny Owens, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Councillors at PlaqueCllr. John Clendennen, Cllr. Danny Owens, Cllr. John Carroll, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Lord Rosse, Ms Anna Marie Delaney, Prof. Peter Gallagher