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:

  • Read career stories profiling people working in all kinds of STEM in our blog; browse STEM ‘Career Stories’ or look up a career 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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Career Stories: Michael Keogh, Aircraft Engineer, Ryanair

Michael Keogh

Michael Keogh tells Smart Futures about working as a Ryanair aircraft engineer.

Describe your typical day?

I am a B2 avionics maintenance engineer so I work on electrical, instruments and radio systems. B1 engineers work on airframe and engine systems. We work 12-hour days, working two days then two nights, followed by four days off.

On a typical day, I carry out a technical status review of our operating aircraft, plan for scheduled maintenance and provide technical support for our operating aircraft in Dublin and abroad. On nights, we carry out routine and scheduled maintenance.

What’s cool about your job?

Every day is different; there are always new challenges. I get great job satisfaction when I have to recover an aircraft with a technical issue that prevents it from flying, especially when abroad.

To recover an aircraft, we have to find the cause, repair or remove and install a component, followed by a complete test of the affected system.

What are the main challenges?

Working in a high-pressure environment and maintaining our aircraft in a safe, efficient and cost-effective manner. I must keep up to date with my Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) licence, company approval and recurrent training.

Another challenge is learning about new aircraft and systems in a constantly changing industry.

How do you get an IAA licence?

After completing an apprenticeship and on-the-job training, you can apply to do IAA exams. Once completed, the IAA issues a licence.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Engineering and science subjects are extremely important as they help you to understand aircraft systems such as aerodynamics, pneumatic, hydraulics, jet propulsion, radio theory, electrical theory and instrumentation.

What subjects did you take in school?

I took maths, English, Irish, engineering, technical drawing, physics and French.  The science and engineering subjects were essential during my apprenticeship and I use them every day in work.

What did you do after school?

I did an apprenticeship in aeronautical engineering with Ryanair in conjunction with FÁS in Shannon and Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). During my apprenticeship I did night classes in radio, instruments and electrical theory.

What inspired your interest in engineering?

Having a curious mind; I always loved the practical side of technical drawing, metalwork and physics.

If you wish to pursue a career in aviation engineering, you may find the following links useful:
•    Ryanair – Engineering recruitment
•    IAA – How to become a maintenance engineer
•    DIT – Aircraft mechanic apprenticeship
•    Education and training boards (SOLAS/FÁS recommends contacting these for more information on apprentices)

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Career Stories: Maeve Tobin, Bone Archaelogist

Undertaking osteological analysis swords skeletons

Maeve Tobin talks to SmartFutures about her career, a career which gives her the opportunity to work with her ancestors!

What is your job title?

I am project officer, osteoarchaeologist at Irish Archaeological Consultancy.

What does an osteoarchaeologist do?

If human remains are found and authorities decide they are historic, an osteoarchaeologist will be involved in any excavation and recording of the remains. They then analyse the remains to try to discover who these individuals were – their sex and age – and how they lived and died.

What is the best thing about your job?

You work directly with people from the past. You are looking at the remains of your ancestors and people who inhabited the country thousands of years ago.

What interesting projects are you working on?

We recently excavated 16 skeletons at Swords Castle. They seem to predate the castle, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they were 1,000 years old. They are full skeletons, very well preserved, so we would hope to get a lot of information from them.

What would be a typical day?

It depends. Now I am working on the Swords skeletons; I will analyse the remains and write a report. Another week I might go into the archives of the National Museum; look at records in the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; conduct site inspections; or do research and write a report.

Why did you choose archaeology in University College Cork (UCC)?

When I was in arts in UCC I thought I’d focus on psychology, but archaeology took my interest after first year. It stemmed from a general interest in history. Then I went on to do a master’s in osteoarchaeology.

Have you any advice about archaeology courses?

Look at the universities’ websites for archaeology; they all have a slightly different focus. UCC has a practical, hands-on excavation-oriented degree; Trinity would be more looking at the Greek and Roman world. Sligo IT takes a scientific approach with lots of lab work. UCD would be similar to UCC.

What advice would you give to students interested in becoming archaeologists?

Get out on site. There are a lot of community archaeology schemes across the country, real archaeological excavations, and they are always looking for volunteers for a week or two.

What Leaving Cert subjects turned out to be especially helpful?

Obviously history, as it is always great to have a general background. I found geography to be really helpful as well and biology.

In your spare time what do you like to do?

I am into craft works, so sewing and crochet and all that malarkey.

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Engineering Your Future: Women in Engineering Career Seminar

Steps logo

Are you a guidance counsellor or teacher in a girls’ or mixed school? Would you like to find out more about engineering?

Engineers Ireland’s STEPS programme is hosting a Women in Engineering career seminar at the Printworks Conference Centre, Dublin Castle on Wednesday 8th October, from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm.

This free event is open to second and third year female students from schools throughout Ireland, as well as guidance counsellors and teachers. The aim of the event is to encourage girls to consider engineering as a viable and exciting career choice. The event is free to attend, but pre-booking is a must.

Students will have a chance to meet a number of engineers (both male and female) in a series of round table discussions to find out what subjects are needed to study engineering, what college life is like for engineering students, the kind of jobs that engineers can apply for, and details of the various engineering disciplines.

Teachers and career guidance counsellors will also have the opportunity to talk with engineers from companies and third level institutes.

Places are limited and advance booking is essential .

More information can be found on the STEPS website.

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Career Stories: Morven Duffy, Process Engineer, Intel

MorvenInCleanroom2

Morven Duffy talks to SmartFutures about making computer chips for Intel Ireland, where she has worked for 15 years.

What is a process engineer and what do you do?

Intel has a few hundred process engineers in Leixlip. Each one has responsibility for a number of process steps. We start with a silicon wafer and build a load of integrated circuits into it .

My area is called metals. I work with complicated machines and ensure they operate consistently and at a reasonable cost.

What are the wafers for and what size are they?

We build hundreds of chips on to a silicon wafer that is 30cm across. We’re starting a new process using Intel’s newest technology called Broadwell.

We use a measurement called the gate length, which is the basic measure of how small a chip can be manufactured. The new gate length is 14 nanometers (nm) – a human hair is around 75,000nm in diameter – they are the most advanced in the world.

What are the main challenges?

Some of the layers we use to build chips are so thin that the material doesn’t behave as expected so that is difficult. Keeping the yields up (how many good chips we get off a wafer) is very complicated as there’s a lot of reasons why it might not work.

Another challenge is the travel. Intel releases a new product every two to three years. They are developed in Oregon in the US and transferred to Ireland. When we are doing a process transfer, we have to live abroad. In the last three years, I’ve spent nine months in Oregon and just over a year in Israel.

What’s cool about your job?

I get to play with really expensive machines.

What subjects did you take in school?

I picked physics, chemistry, biology, applied maths and German. When I was choosing my college course, I decided to go with the subject I liked best – physics.

What did you do after school?

I did applied physics in Dublin City University in 1995. I had to do a six-month work placement, which I did in Intel. Intel hired a bunch of us when we finished college.

What kind of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Anyone interested in this role should get experience in a manufacturing-type job.

What inspires your love of engineering?

My family has always been quite technical. We were very familiar with computers and had a laptop at home in 1990. That background has definitely fed through.

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