Accelerating the Reach of Microsoft Dream Space to Students in Rural Ireland

James O’Connor

James O’Connor

Vice President of Microsoft International Operations

Read Time, 4 min.

Today marks a very special day for Microsoft Ireland as we host our first ever Microsoft Dream Space Showcase at our campus in Leopardstown, Dublin.

Over 300 students from 13 schools and seven clubs in rural Ireland gathered at One Microsoft Place for the inaugural Microsoft Dream Space Showcase to demonstrate the many ways in which their digital skills can help to solve some of today’s sustainability challenges.

 

Dream Space St Catherines

During the showcase, Students from St. Catherine of Siena National School inspect their STEM-based project which uses micro:bit to efficiently grow food.

The Journey to the Showcase

The Dream Space Showcase is the culmination of many months of work by the Microsoft Dream Space education team, and participating schools and clubs.

In fact, the journey began in September 2022 when the Microsoft Dream Space education team visited Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) in Counties Longford and Tipperary to deliver hands-on STEM sessions. Specifically designed sites that have been retrofitted with high-speed broadband, BCPs play a critical role in helping to bridge the digital gap by increasing opportunities for rural schools to access initiatives like Dream Space and connect to a whole new world of technology.

The engagement with Dream Space via BCPs led to schools participating in a further 10-week Dream Space programme. This empowered the students to explore the world of STEM and computer science through various curriculum subjects like geography, P.E., visual arts, and more. They also harnessed the power of the micro:bit, a pocket-sized computer, to foster computational thinking, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking.

Having held their own local showcase events last month (May ’23) in Longford and Tipperary, today’s Dream Space Showcase offers those students the exciting opportunity to present the technology solutions they have developed to an even wider audience.

Some of the outstanding technology solutions at the first ever Microsoft Dream Space Showcase include wearable tech for improving young people’s wellbeing, inclusive and accessible voting systems, initiatives to clean the ocean and prevent illegal dumping, as well as measures to reduce water wastage, and so much more.

 

Dream Space Team presenting award to Principal at Showcase 2023

Michael Barrett and Amanda Jolliffe from the Microsoft Dream Space team presenting an award to Amadean Moore Walsh, Principal of Drom National School, Co. Tipperary for the school’s STEM-based project entitled “Weaving Wellbeing’ which uses technology to weave wellbeing into the lives of young people.

 

Microsoft Dream Space

While the origins of today’s inaugural event can be traced back to last year, the journey really goes back much further – to the founding of Microsoft Dream Space itself. As part of Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more, in 2018 we invested €5m to establish Microsoft Dream Space, a dedicated innovation and education hub in our campus in Dublin.

Recognising the ways in which technology was playing an ever-increasing role in our economy and society, our mission was to help young people shift their perception of the role technology can play in their future career choices and to cultivate critical and creative thinking skills, which continue to be essential for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

When we launched, our target was to engage 100,000 primary and Transition Year students and their teachers over a four-year period. But by 2022, we were delighted to, not only meet, but exceed that target, reaching more than 130,000 students and 5,000 teachers during those four years, through a variety of in-person and virtual experiences.

Last year (2022), we built on this success when we opened a second Microsoft Dream Space STEM education hub at LIFE at W5 in Belfast and announced our intention to invest a further €3m in Microsoft Dream Space over the next four years. Our aim is to ensure that the almost 1 million students, enrolled in primary and secondary schools across the island of Ireland, will be given the opportunity to learn the digital skills they will need to become the digital leaders of tomorrow.

The Microsoft Dream Space Showcase event is an important step on the road to achieving this ambition. As demonstrated by the critical role played by BCPs in the early stages of this initiative, it is also a demonstration of what can be achieved by harnessing the opportunities available in rural Ireland to provide access for young people to digital opportunities.

We’re very grateful to all our partners who have worked with us to make the Microsoft Dream Space Showcase a reality. Part of the do your :bit challenge, the Microsoft Dream Space Showcase event is also run in collaboration with OurKidsCode and the Department of Rural and Community Development. I’d also like to thank all the pupils and teachers from the schools and clubs across Counties Tipperary and Longford who have worked so hard on their respective projects and embraced the concept of the Microsoft Dream Space Showcase from the very beginning.

By hosting the Microsoft Dream Space Showcase, along with the endless possibilities it represents, we’re one step closer to making our ambition to equip every student across the island of Ireland with digital skills a reality.

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