17-year old Cork native Alicia O’Sullivan has been named ESB TechSpacer of the Year at the ESB Creative Tech Fest. Her digital creativity project “I Care,” reflecting her passion for social advocacy, was selected from over 300 projects submitted for this year’s awards, which celebrate the creations, inventions and inspirations of young people across the country in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) and digital creativity.

Alicia received a cheque for €500 to invest in her project as well as a year-long mentorship programme from ESB. Over 20 awards in STEAM and Digital Creativity were awarded at the event, which also saw Don Rogers of NEWKD, Castleisland, Co Kerry named ESB TechSpace Educator of the Year.

Pat O’Doherty, Chief Executive of the ESB, said “We are proud to support the work of TechSpace through our Generation Tomorrow programme, which supports organisations working to empower young people through STEAM learning initiatives. ESB Creative Tech Fest is an incredible showcase of creativity and innovation from young people across the country, and highlights their potential to find creative solutions to the challenges they face today and will face in the future.”

ESB Creative Tech Fest is the national showcase of the TechSpace creative education network managed by Camara Education Ireland. Over 300 young people aged between 10 and 18 from over 70 local youth clubs and groups were recognised for their project work in STEAM and Digital Media, and had the opportunity to engage in in workshops, talks and interactive exhibitions.

18 year-old scientist and entrepreneur Ciara Judge, named by Time Magazine in 2014 as one of the 25 most influential teens worldwide, was the key speaker at today’s event. Ciara inspired the young audience with her story, charting her short journey from winning the BT Young Scientist, the European Union Contest for Young Scientists and the Google Global Science Fair to becoming co-director of her first company, Germinaid Innovations, and her recent second start-up PurchaseMate, while studying at MIT, Boston.

Speaking at today’s event, Ciara said: “I’m very excited to be speaking at this year’s ESB Creative Tech Fest because I believe that technology really is a game changer in creating a better world, and nobody understands that more than the youth of today.”

The Science Foundation Ireland funded programme “The NYCI TechSpace STEM in Youth Work Maker Project” which has trained over 320 educators over the last two years, was highlighted at ESB Creative Tech Fest through youth exhibits and STEM workshops including a life-size hologram, large-scale conductive circus tight wire that plays music, a Finnish/Irish makerspace and a paper circuitry workshop by artist Maeve Clancy.

Two ESB VR experiences allowed attendees to connect their STEM workshops with the real life challenges of fixing subsea cables and repairing cables following faults on the electricity infrastructure.

Margie McCarthy, Interim Director of Science and Society at Science Foundation Ireland, spoke about their support for the programme: “Science Foundation Ireland is committed to making science, technology, engineering and maths accessible and engaging to the young people of Ireland. It is imperative that we demonstrate to them the diverse and exciting directions that a science-related career can take, and this can be achieved by involving them in hands-on initiatives which build their interest and confidence in STEM. For that reason we are delighted to support the STEM in Youth Work project, and would like to congratulate every participant for their brilliant achievements.”

Foróige TechSpaces celebrated their new Computer Science (CS) skills as part of a brand new project, sponsored by Google.org. Young people created stories in Google CS First coding workshops, and had the opportunity 1to invent with the BBC MicroBit and learn about Computer Science Careers for Girls, and enjoy a robot fashion show featuring the creations of young people attending the event.

Claire Conneely, Computer Science Education Programme Manager, says she was hugely impressed by the projects on display. “For the third year running, Google is proud to be hosting more than 300 young people and educators from 70 youth clubs and schools across Ireland for Creative Tech Fest. I’m completely blown away by the level of creativity and technical skills shown by the young people today in their projects and exhibitions — with these critical skills for working and living in 21st century Ireland, they are sure to go places!”

As well as the exhibition, talks and workshop, entertainment on the day was from multi-instrumentalist and rising Irish electronic artist Daithí O’Dronai and rising contemporary Trad Pop band Tógra, themselves former TechSpacers, who performed bilingually.

The Irish language was at the heart of ESB Creative Tech Fest with bilingual workshops, awards, exhibits and live performances. Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Seán Kyne T.D., emphasised the importance of offering young people the chance to express themselves creatively through their native language: “ESB Creative Tech Fest is a wonderful annual event that gives young people the opportunity to express their creative ideas. It encourages them and gives them confidence when using cutting-edge technology. The TechSpace project has clearly drawn much interest and attention, as this is the sixth year in a row that the annual event has been held. I am delighted that Clár TechSpace is part of this magical event again this year and that my Department was able to fund the event. I would like to thank all those involved in TechSpace, as well as the schools and sponsors who have done great work to make this event happen today.”

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