Errigal College students set to represent Ireland in Brussels

Group of people standing beside each other.
Group of people standing beside each other.
Mr Evan Gorrell (Business and Coding teacher), Mrs Marie Crossan (Art teacher), students Andrea Noonan, Amelie Klamroth and Josephine Wisniewski, Mr Danny McFadden (Principal) and Ms. Deirdre Markham (Deputy Principal).

Three Donegal ETB Transition Year students from Errigal College in Letterkenny have been selected to represent Ireland at the third edition of the Women and Girls in STEM Forum, taking place in Brussels on 5 December 2023. This is an annual conference to celebrate the students who participated in the Girls Go Circular initiative which supports students to develop their digital and leadership skills while learning about the circular economy and finding solutions for a sustainable future.

Andrea Noonan, Amelie Klamroth and Josephine Wisniewski, under the guidance of their Business and Computer Science teacher Mr Evan Gorrell, were tasked with developing the idea for a robot to solve an environmental issue of their choice in their school or their community. The aim of the project is to encourage female students to gain more experience and self-confidence in dealing with technology applied to real-world issues and thus promote their interest in scientific fields.

The students noticed the massive amount of food waste and single-use plastics in their school and wanted to do something about it. Their idea would see a robot made from recycled and sustainable materials to reduce its environmental footprint with its wheels being powered by rechargeable batteries, ensuring that it’s energy efficient.

The winning Irish entry, named EcoBot, is a compact robot designed to efficiently collect food scraps and used materials in schools. It has sensors and cameras for navigation and a spacious storage handbag with three compartments for refuse, compost, and recycling.

Mr Evan Gorrell said, “This is an incredible achievement for our students and a testament to their hard work and dedication over the last number of months. This project was a cross-curricular approach with exceptional guidance also coming from Ms Marie Crossan in our Art Department.”

Three students holding an art piece.
Students Amelie, Andrea, and Josephine with the head of ‘EcoBot’.

Mr Danny McFadden, Principal of Errigal College, stressed the importance of promoting STEM among female students, “I am very proud of Andrea, Amelie, Josephine and their teacher, Mr Gorrell, on all the hard work they have put into this project which sees them represent our country on the European stage. We at Errigal College are dedicated to ensuring that our female students have equal opportunities and access to STEM education. Encouraging young women to explore STEM fields is not just an educational responsibility but a societal imperative.”

Errigal College has taken remarkable strides to encourage female students to explore the world of STEM, forging meaningful partnerships and providing comprehensive support to create a more inclusive future whilst offering a wide range of STEM subjects including Computer Science and Engineering.

They recently entered into a five-year partnership with local employer OPTUM Ireland, cultivating a strong connection between education and industry. This partnership played a crucial role in the school’s newly launched STEM Lab which is a testament to their commitment to hands-on learning experiences.

Other partnerships include working closely with local feeder primary schools to emphasise the importance of STEM, with a particular focus on coding through various workshops. They have established strong connections with ATU Donegal, fostering an environment where female students are encouraged to consider STEM fields and currently have twenty transition year students enrolled in the ATU STEM Passport for Inclusion programme.