Science Festival to feature first MAKESHOP in Northern Ireland

//Science Festival to feature first MAKESHOP in Northern Ireland

Science Festival to feature first MAKESHOP in Northern Ireland

The third Northern Ireland Science Festival kicks off on 16 February 2017, with its biggest programme yet.

With over 100 events across 25+ venues, the NI Science Festival offers a stimulating and wide range of events focusing on the wonders of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These events present some of the best scientists from NI and beyond to discuss their work, cutting-edge research and what the future might hold.

During the day, the Festival offers a range of workshops, talks and interactive activities for young people, parents and schools. In the evenings there will be eclectic mix of scientific debate, talks, theatres, comedy, music and film for adults.

This year MATRIX is supporting two events – the first ever MAKESHOP in Northern Ireland and the MATRIX poetry competition.


MATRIX is supporting a practical way to encourage young people to try out engineering for themselves – by building their own robot, interactive poster or LED torch.

These are just a few of the projects available in the first ever MAKESHOP in Northern Ireland, which will run throughout the NI Science Festival (16-26th February) in a pop up shop in Belfast city centre.

In our latest report – the Advanced Manufacturing, Materials & Engineering (AMME) study, published last November – we identified the need for young people to develop practical making and problem solving skills.

The AMME sector includes industries such as aerospace, polymers and materials handling as well as some highly specialist companies. There are over 2,000 such businesses in Northern Ireland, employing over 40,000 people, paying salaries 26% above the NI average and generating sales worth £7.2bn in 2014.

So there are great opportunities for well paid careers in AMME, but there’s a shortage of suitably qualified workers.

AMME professionals feel strongly that practical hands-on experience of manufacturing and problem solving from an early age is of prime importance. Crucially, the majority of children leave school without ever having built or constructed anything.

As Matrix Chair Dr. Bryan Keating notes, “People learn in four different ways: Visual, Auditory, Reading & Writing and Kinesthetic, which is essentially ‘by doing’. Not everyone is ‘wired’ the same way and the various methods of learning suit some but not others.  Building things is not only a great and effective way to learn it for many but there also is something really rewarding and pleasurable about designing and building something that works.

“We live in a digital world that appears to revolve entirely around the Internet, but people and companies still need tangible things in their lives – from everyday consumer products to delicate medical devices  that can be implanted into people’s bodies, through to 40 tonne crushing machines that shake the ground as they move. Engineering skill and a passion to build products is at the heart of all these products.”

One of the AMME report’s recommendations was the introduction of family friendly maker spaces, to let young people and parents see the value of engineering.

We wanted to see if we could make this happen ourselves, so we spoke to the organizers of the NI Science Festival, who told us about the MAKESHOP in Dublin.

Created by the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin, MAKESHOP is for everyone from novices to advanced makers, young to old. The aim of MAKESHOP is to provide people with the tools, materials and guidance they need to get making, in a place where creativity is encouraged and everyone is welcome.

There’s a workshop space where people of all ages can explore and experiment with design, science, art and technology. There’s also a shop, selling kits and materials for your own projects, to get you making at home.

We thought this was a great idea, so as part of this year’s festival we are supporting the first ever MAKESHOP in Belfast.

This “pop up” version of MAKESHOP will bring hands-on workshops in DIY robotics, coding, soldering and more to anyone with a curious mind and an interest in making. Here are a few highlights:

  • Create interactive art: Design posters that play music when touched, and greeting cards that light up
  • Make things that move: Learn how to assemble a simple circuit and use it to power robots that can move, draw, or fire paper planes
  • Learn to solder: Find out how to attach electronic components to a circuit board and build LED torches and other fun electronics projects

Walk-in workshops last from about 45 minutes to two hours. All you have to do is walk in, choose an item from the menu, and begin the workshop right away!

For more information see the NI Science Festival website at

The MATRIX Poetry Competition

MATRIX has launched its third Poetry Competition to highlight the links between science and the arts. We are teaming up with the John Hewitt Society to bring you a night of talks and science themed poetry, culminating in a world record attempt for the most haiku tweeted at a single event!

All of this year entries must be in the form of a Haiku. This is a Japanese poetry form which has no title and a total of just 17 syllables in three lines of 5-7-5 formation. It can be profound or humorous, about the big issues or the small, generic or personal but it must be about science and technology.   Topics could be about climate change or the pleasure of writing great code, the beauty of equations or the possible dangers of GM crops.

Prizes to be won and of course the opportunity to be part of a new world record.

The competition opens on the 1st February and runs until the 17th Feb. The winner will be anounced at a special event in the Black Box in Belfast on Tuesday the 21st of February at 6.30PM. The show itself will also feature a world record attempt for the most haikus ever tweeted at a single event, with a further prize awarded for the best on the day.

For further information, visit the NI Science Festival 2017 website

By | 2017-02-06T11:40:37+00:00 February 2nd, 2017|STEM|0 Comments

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