Pilot Direct 2 Discovery project launched in Rahan

For tens of thousands of secondary school students the first week back in school is considered a daunting task. However, for the students in a small village in Offaly there was a lot to look forward to. Killina Presentation Secondary School in Offaly was selected a while ago for an exciting pilot science teaching project. The D2D project involves the sharing of science classes between students in Killina Presentation Secondary School and Researchers in the Georgia Institute of Technology. This provides the students with access to world-class researchers in areas such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, astronomy and using the video conferencing facilities where the students can ask questions and in some cases remotely control some of the equipment using computers and also see what the researchers are seeing for example - the view using Georgia Tech's electron scanning microscope, which is one of the most powerful in the USA. The project is facilitated by Atlantic Corridor, a Midlands based development agency, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Atlanta Georgia and NIS, an IT services company based in the Midlands. Killina Presentation Secondary School was one of 75 schools selected to take part in the 100mpbs Post Primary Schools Project, launched by the Government, which sets out to deliver high-speed broadband connectivity to schools across the country. As a result of this high speed internet connection the school had the infrastructure to develop the D2D project with Georgia Tech. The Georgia Institute of Technology [Georgia Tech] is one of the United States top research universities, distinguished by its commitment to improving the human condition through advanced science and technology. The Direct-to-Discovery (D2D) program at Georgia Tech, Atlanta brings world-class researchers and their laboratories into K-12 classrooms in the USA and enables researchers to work directly with teachers and students to provide rich, just-in-time science content that inspires, motivates, and advances learning. Launching the project on Monday, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said: "This is a very exciting project. It is pushing beyond the limits of traditional teaching and giving students in a rural Irish classroom direct, real-time access to world-class scientists and their labs on the GeorgiaTech Campus in Atlanta. This is a perfect example of the kind of novel, innovative approaches to learning that my Government is trying to encourage. As you know, we have set out a vision for renewing our economy - based on the concept of a 'Smart Economy'." Speaking at the launch of the project Chairman of Atlantic Corridor John Flanagan said: "Atlantic Corridor is delighted to have fostered this project, the first of its kind in Ireland, providing valuable education beyond the bandwidth barrier and we welcome this important and innovative collaboration between Georgia Tech, NIS, Killina NS and ourselves which will provide rich and exciting science learning experiences for the students involved." Michael Nolan, Principal of Killina Presentation School said: "This is a very exciting time for us here in Killina Presentation Secondary School and we are privileged to have been selected to participate in this pilot Science teaching project, Direct to Discovery. We are all aware of the importance of Science in education and we are confident that our participation in this link to Georgia Tech Research Institute will create a greater interest in Science and Science based careers among our students. We are very grateful to Atlantic Corridor Tullamore, NIS Rahan and Georgia Tech for their investment of time, finance and expertise in this project." By using the high-speed broadband networks and high-definition videoconferencing to remove the limitations of distance, the lines between the classroom and the research laboratory are removed and students are able to see real-world applications of science and technology at work. This program is designed to address several components such as appropriate role-modelling of careers in science and technology, lack of digital content tied to curricular standards, teachers teaching out-of-field, outdated textbooks, and economic pressures that reduce possibilities for out-of-the-classroom experiential learning. During the live video link up for the launch, which included a tour of the research labs at Georgia Tech, those attending the launch were also addressed live from Atlanta by the President of the Ireland US Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta and by Paul Gleeson, Department of Foreign Affairs who is based at the new Irish Consulate in Atlanta. The new Consulate in Atlanta is part of the rollout of the new Strategy for Ireland-US Relations launched by the Taoiseach last year. Atlantic Corridor has a strong relationship with Georgia through its work with the Ireland-US Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Tech and this link for Killina Presentation School is part of Atlantic Corridor's work to develop international links for science and technology education in the Irish Midlands.