Launch of I-LOFAR Education Centre & AstroLands Education Programme

Trinity College Dublin, Birr Scientific & Heritage Foundation, and Offaly County Council announce the opening of the I-LOFAR Education Centre and launch of the Astronomical Midlands Schools and Public Engagement Programme, with very special guest Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, on Thursday the 30thof May.

Astronomical Midlands, which has been funded by Science Foundation Ireland, uses the recently refurbished I-LOFAR Education Centre at Birr Castle to connect with students, teachers and members of the public in rural communities in the Midlands. The refurbishment of the Education Centre has been supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht and Offaly County Council.

Áine Flood and Peter Gallagher from the I-LOFAR project together with Margie McCarthy (SFI) and Minister John Halligan.

Speaking about the event, Head of I-LOFAR, Professor Peter Gallagher says:

“Astronomical Midlands or AstroLands for short, will open new conversations with groups that have had little involvement with STEM using this unique new facility at Birr. This is a wonderful opportunity to carry forward the rich scientific heritage of Birr, allowing people in the Midlands to discover opportunities for further education and careers in STEM and inspire the next generation of scientific explorers.”

Funded by Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme and the European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO), Astronomical Midlands will embark on three key initiatives:

  • Space4Exploration: Create an engaging, inspirational and multi-use space in the I-LOFAR Education Centre.
  • Space4Students: Launch day-long and week-long space camps at the Education Centre that run during school term and school holidays for students aged 10 to 14.
  • Space4Teachers: Create CPD workshops for upper primary and lower secondary school teachers based around the National Junior Certificate themes of Earth and Space.

Secondary school students learning about astronomy at the I-LOFAR Education Centre.

The Irish LOFAR Consortium is proud to continue the rich heritage in astronomy at Birr Castle, taking Irish astrophysics from its pioneering days in the 18th century to the current state-of-the-art in the 21st century. The I-LOFAR Education Centre will complement the existing Science Visitor Centre at Birr Castle, which tells the story of past Irish achievements in science. The I-LOFAR Education Centre will provide an inspirational location for education workshops, and community-based STEM projects, such as CoderDojo. It will be equipped with a 3D video globe, a large video wall, numerous interactive flat screen displays, and a LOFAR radio telescope network activity wall.

The I-LOFAR Education Centre is being developed in partnership with Offaly County Council and has been supported by a grant from Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs’s Rural Economic Development Zones (REDZ).

Notes for editors

  • Professor Peter Gallagher is available for interview ( ; +353 87 656 8975).
  • Dependent on schedule, the inspirational Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who co-discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967, may be available for interview. In 2018, she was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. She donated the whole of the £2.3 million prize money to help female, minority, and refugee students become physics researchers.
  • The I-LOFAR radio telescope was primarily funded by Science Foundation Ireland, while membership of the International LOFAR Telescope is supported by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

For further information please contact:

Niamh O’Carroll, niamh@ocarrollconsulting.comor, +353 87 6286171