The finals of the 2020 Offaly VEX Robotics Primary School Competition took place on Friday 31st January in Coláiste Choilm Tullamore, with 450 students from across the county bringing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills to life by designing, building and programming robots to play against other schools. The Offaly competition has grown significantly since it started 12 months ago and we now have 28 primary schools participating in the competition with students from every corner of the county represented.
Jobs and employment opportunities are changing, and primary school students are at the perfect age to begin their STEM education. Offaly County Council believes that STEM is key to unlocking a better, smarter future for Offaly. This is a unique school programme and it gives children as young as 5 years of age their first opportunity to learn about engineering and robotics. It is also an inclusive competition, with most teams comprised of full primary classes with boys and girls equally represented. Schools are provided with an easy to follow curriculum with support from Offaly County Council and CIT (Cork Institute of Technology).
Ray Bell, Head of Information Technology, Offaly County Council said “We are delighted to be working with primary schools in Offaly and it really demonstrates the interest amongst young people to engage with STEM at the earliest opportunity. The competition really showcased their creativity and innovation and credit has to go to the students and their teachers. The innovation, imagination and creativity on display proves that the students in Offaly have the skills for an exciting future.”
The winners on the day included Scoil Mhuire Tullamore who won the Excellence Award, Teamwork Challenge Award and Robot Skills Programming / Autonomous Award; St Joseph’s Tullamore also won the Teamwork Challenge Award and this was a great achievement for our youngest competitors with all students in 2nd class aged 7-8 years of age; the Robot Driving Skills Award went to St. Manchan's National School in Tubber; Robot Design Award went to Geashill National School and the Judges Award went to Scoil Charthaigh Naofa in Rahan. Scoil Mhuire Tullamore will represent Offaly in the All Ireland Robotics Championship in CIT in Cork in February this year.
David Hodge, Lecturer, Faculty of Engineering and Science, CIT and VEX Development Manager for Ireland said there is a role for every child in the competition and we are delighted to partner with Offaly County Council on this programme. “The competition targets every aspect of STEM and the students involved take the initiative because they are given ownership. While VEX focusses on hard science skills, participants also develop soft skills like leadership, communication and teamwork. They are an integral part of this programme but also an integral part of surviving in the workplace,” Mr Hodge said.
“Offaly County Council is innovating and transforming through a range of business, community and educational initiatives and the VEX Robotics Competition is just one of these initiatives. This initiative connects students and companies who use robotics in their business; it builds on Offaly’s strong heritage in science and engineering and it gives students the skills for an exciting future”. That is according to Orla Martin, Head of Enterprise with the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) within Offaly County Council.
Martina Needham, Senior Executive Librarian with Offaly County Council, added; “Primary school students are at the perfect age to begin their STEM education and this project gives them an early opportunity to hone their teamwork, creativity and analytical skills. The programme really demonstrated the interest amongst young people to engage with STEM at the earliest opportunity. The competition really showcased their creativity and innovation and credit has to go to the students and their teachers. The creativity on display at the Offaly championship proves we have talented future engineers and developers in the county.”
Offaly County Council believes that this programme is needed to ensure today’s students are qualified for the jobs of tomorrow. It’s an ideal introduction to students who we hope will drive Offaly’s economic ambitions, support innovation and provide the foundations for future prosperity in the county. The programme is delivered by Offaly County Council in partnership with CIT, Department of Rural and Community Development, Offaly Local Development Company, Offaly Local Enterprise Office, Offaly Libraries and Offaly County Councils ICT Department and everyone is to be commended for their innovative and proactive approach.