What is Smart Futures?

Smart Futures is a government-industry programme providing science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers information to second-level students, parents, teachers and careers guidance counsellors in Ireland. On this website you can:

  • Browse STEM ‘Career Stories’ about people working in all kinds of STEM-related roles or look up a specific career area by entering a keyword (e.g. chemistry) in the search box (top left hand corner). 
  • Request a STEM volunteer to visit your school for free here or become a volunteer yourself!
  • Watch careers video with people working in areas such as food and sports science, cybersecurity, engineering, energy, app development, biotechnology, medical devices and lots more hereSTEM Infographic

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Students at BT Young Scientist discuss STEM related topics!

We had an absolutely fantastic time at this years BT Young Scientist thank you to everyone who came over and said “Hi” to us at our stand.

Check out the videos we made on the day below:

In this video students Harry McCann (Founder of the Digital Youth Council), Jordan Casey (CEO of Casey Games) and Catrina Carrigan (Mentor at CoderDojo Girls DCU) discuss stereotypes, their future plans for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and resources that they find effective for STEM career information.

In this video students Harry McCann (Founder of the Digital Youth Council), Jordan Casey (CEO of Casey Games) and Catrina Carrigan (Mentor at CoderDojo Girls DCU) discuss how they got started in Coder Dojo, the importance of role models in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and their love for technology and coding.

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Career Stories: Denis Drennan, PhD Student

Denis Drennan - Picture

Denis Drennan talks to Smart Futures about integrating electronics and medicine

How did you choose a third-level course?

I was interested in technology and science from a young age, so electronic systems engineering in Cork IT (CIT) seemed like a suitable course.

What aspects of the degree did you most enjoy?

I like the practical side of things, so building and testing things.

I like the idea of creating something new and seeing that work. But you need to have the theory to back that up.

What Leaving Cert subjects helped most in your degree?

Maths and physics were particularly beneficial.

The same principles apply for solving a maths or physics problem for leaving cert as an electronics problem in college or even today.

Why did you opt for a master’s degree in electronic engineering in Maynooth?

I had been to the biomedical department and I liked what I saw.

I opted for electronic engineering, majoring in biomedicine, which gave me my first real taste of integrating electronics and medicine.

My favourite part was the project when I got to work on an electronic system that integrates with the nervous system for those with spinal cord injuries.

You worked as a researcher in Maynooth. Why did you move to the start-up Neuromod Devices?

It was a great opportunity to follow the life cycle of a medical device from concept to fruition.

Neuromod brought a device that is a non-invasive treatment for tinnitus to the market a few weeks ago.

It’s a non-surgical treatment for tinnitus.

It stimulates the lingual nerve [in the tongue] while headphones provide audio stimulation.

The combined simulations help the brain to learn to reduce the loudness of the tinnitus itself.

Did you have specific responsibilities at Neuromod?

With a small company everyone has to pull together and you get exposed to a lot more roles than you would in a larger company.

One day I would be working on testing and prototyping, the next day I’d be talking to the manufacturer.

You recently started a PhD investigating ways to treat unaddressed neurological conditions, specifically hearing issues. How did that come about?

I was looking for a new challenge and when I got the opportunity to work with Dr Edmund Lalor I jumped at the chance.

He is a world leader in the study of human sensory systems.

What are your plans for after your PhD?

I would like to return to Neuromod. It is a great company to work for.

What advice would you offer students considering engineering?

You have to follow your heart to some degree.

If you enjoy physics and maths, any of the science subjects really, I think you would enjoy a degree in engineering. It can be difficult but it’s very rewarding.


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Dr. Niamh Shaw on Late Lunch Live

Check out Dr Niamh Shaw on Late Lunch Live as she talks about the importance of space exploration and progression.

“Science is everywhere, it’s just a way of seeing the world”

Check out our other Space topics and interviews here.

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Forget Wi-Fi, Li-Fi is the Future

 LED 2

Between streaming movies, downloading games, refreshing apps and everything else, we are all greedy for more data. Sometimes, however, Wi-Fi is just too slow. Plus there are security concerns on uplinks when Wi-Fi can be intercepted.

There is another way to transmit data wirelessly, says Brian Corbett at the Tyndall National Institute in Cork, and that’s ‘Li-Fi’.

Instead of using radiowaves to send data, you use light. You point your device at a bunch of LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and they transmit data. You could use LEDs to download entire movies in seconds.

A gigabyte per second

LEDs can turn on and off very quickly, and they are tiny, Corbett explains. Each time an LED flickers its sends digital code (a 1 or 0) and it can flicker 100 million times a second. Your eye would miss that, so LEDs could be used as regular lights and transmit data. “You can send a gigabyte per second, which is an enormous amount of data,” he says.

Earlier this year, Corbett made a small cluster of LEDs made from a very hard material called indium gallium nitride. This is the layer in modern blue and green LEDs.

The cluster contained 16 individual LEDs in an area of 100 micrometres (about the width of a human hair).

“A single LED six microns across can send hundreds of megabits of data per second. When we run them as a cluster that helps send even more,” he adds.

Li-Fi in shops and in the air

He predicts that LEDs transmitting data could hit the big time in shopping centres, where visible light could transmit information to shoppers’ phones. On a flight, you could point your phone at an overhead light and download a movie. The challenge, however, is that light can scatter and the receiver has to be designed to deal with background and natural light.

LEDs are already used to transmit TV signals around apartment buildings in South Korea, although they are encased in plastic tubing to hold in and deliver the beam.

There are advantages to transmitting data through light without cables. For example, Li-Fi could be used for underwater signalling or in hospitals where Wi-Fi is not permitted.

“If you want to stop someone stealing your information when you get a direct download, it could be a big advantage to have a line of sight between your computer and the channel you are connecting to,” says Corbett.

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