The CCEA STEM DEN: Putting pupil innovations under the spotlight!

There was a nervous excitement amongst the pupils attending the CCEA STEM Innovation event at Riddell Hall, Queen’s University yesterday.

Pupils from schools across Northern Ireland had spent months taking on the role of scientists and engineers, tackling real-life STEM issues in the area of Science and Technology and Design. Now the time had come to put their ideas and inventions to the test!

From designing a sustainable public transport solution to inventing a device to alert patients to remember to take their medication, these pupils have been busy researching, planning and executing their STEM ideas. Now they had to face a panel of prominent local business people – the STEM DEN Dragons!

STEM DEN Dragon Linda Jamison, Collaborative Network Executive at Invest NI, was impressed by the confidence of the pupils presenting their ideas:

"It was immediately evident that the pupils knew their subject and their enthusiasm for their projects was extremely impressive. These young people are the future STEM innovators who will help drive our economy in the years to come. It is essential that industry engages with schools to raise the profile of learning in STEM subjects. This STEM project has successfully enhanced the pupils' problem-solving skills, creativity and ICT ability. There is no doubt that we have ignited some entrepreneurial spirit here today!"

Richard Hanna, Director of Education Strategy at CCEA, talks about the purpose of STEM Innovation event:

"CCEA is pleased to celebrate the excellent work of the schools involved in the STEM Innovation Project. The project centred around our STEM Futures resources which are available for all schools and provides stimulus for engaging in motivating, real-life scenarios. As part of the project C2K and Matrix assisted us by bringing employers and schools together in virtual classrooms. This has allowed students to present their work to STEM industry representatives, bringing greater relevance to pupils' learning in STEM and giving them a real audience to showcase their work."

Naomi Clarke and Bethany Peoples from Methodist College
Naomi Clarke and Bethany Peoples from Methodist College impressed Claire Balmer from SEMTA (the Sector Skills Council for the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering sectors) with their STEM Innovation. The girls looked at the effects of Tumeric and how it could potentially help create a cure for Cancer! Here they are at the CCEA STEM Innovation event at Riddel Hall, Queen's University Belfast.

Guest speaker Bryan Keating
Guest speaker Bryan Keating (Matrix NI Chairman) and CCEA's Director of Education Strategy (right) at the Momentum exhibition stand with Momentum Project Manager Michael Nobel (centre).

Nadia Kelly and Clodagh Hart from St Catherine's College Armagh
Nadia Kelly and Clodagh Hart from St Catherine's College Armagh pitch their public transport solution to the STEM DEN Dragons.

 CCEA's Director of Education Strategy Richard Hanna, Invest NI's Linda Jamison, David Barnett of Wright Bus and Queen's University PhD student Estelle Lowry.
CCEA's Director of Education Strategy Richard Hanna, Invest NI's Linda Jamison, David Barnett of Wright Bus and Queen's University PhD student Estelle Lowry.

CCEA's Director of Qualifications Anne Marie Duffy is impressed with the pupils from St Catherine's College Armagh
CCEA's Director of Qualifications Anne Marie Duffy is impressed with the pupils from St Catherine's College Armagh and their STEM Innovation. At their exhibition stand the girls showed visitors how their specially designed prototype medical nanobot can enter the heart to deliver drugs and carry out surgery!

Jack Logue and Megan O'Loughlin from St Pius X College
Jack Logue and Megan O'Loughlin from St Pius X College showed off their STEM experiment to CCEA Education Manager Melanie Mulligan (far right) and Queen's University Belfast PhD student Estelle Lowry. The pupils undertook an experiment to investigate the effect of fatty deposits on the circulatory system.

STEM Innovation Project

Of all the schools who applied to take part in the STEM Innovation Project, ten were selected on a first-come-first-served basis. Teachers from Science and Technology and Design were then introduced to true concept of Innovation and the CCEA STEM Future learning resources. They selected from the suite of resources and implemented it with their pupils. The resources set real-life scenarios inviting pupils to take on the role of scientists and engineers to tackle cutting edge STEM issues, such as disease prevention, nano-medicine and sustainable transport solutions. The enquiry-rich resources promote practical and investigative opportunities to engage pupils. They highlight in a relevant way the practical application of STEM in the world of work. STEM Futures emphasise the importance and added value gained through meaningful engagement with employers. Pupils presented their work to industry representatives virtually using software available in all schools called ‘Elluminate’. This aspect of the project was supported by C2K and Matrix NI.

Find out more here:

Schools who attended the STEM Innovation event

  • Belfast Model School for Girls - ‘Next Stop Safety’ (a sustainable transport solution)
  • St Catherine’s College, Armagh - ‘Straight to the Heart of It’ (nano-technology) & ‘Next Stop safety’
  • St Mark’s High School, Newry – ‘Heart Matters’ (disease prevention)
  • St Mary’s High School, Lurgan – ‘Heart Matters’
  • St Patrick’s College, Maghera – ‘Cancer - Control and Combat’ & ‘Straight to the Heart of It’
  • St Pius X College, Co. L’Derry – ‘Heart Matters’ & ‘Medi-Alert’
  • St Comhghall’s College, Co. Fermanagh – ‘Heart Matters’
  • Methodist College, Belfast – ‘Cancer – Control and Combat’

Other exhibitors

Momentum NI



Guest Speaker

Dr Bryan Keating, Matrix NI Chairperson

Bryan Keating has been a director of and an investor in a number of NI based hi-tech businesses over the last 30 years. Currently, he is on the Boards of Axis Three and Mail Distiller as well as the Chair of Matrix. In the public sector, including Academia, Bryan has served for many years on the Boards of Invest NI, QUBIS, University Challenge Fund Investment Committee, Investment Belfast, halo the NI Business Angel Network, Momentum and NICENT, the NI Centre for Entrepreneurship. He sits on the liaison committee of the Northern Ireland Science Park.

As an ‘Angel’ Investor he has extensive experience of start-ups, Corporate and Venture Capital issues. Dr. Keating is a visiting professor at the University of Ulster, was the NI IT Professional of the Year 1995, received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2006 and is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

What is the STEM DEN?

The CCEA STEM DEN is a Dragon’s Den-style activity where the pupils present their sustainable STEM Innovations to a panel of industry representatives.

The STEM Den panel

David Barnett, Wright Group Development Engineering Manager

David has worked for Wrightbus for over 12 years. He began as junior engineer working on the first electric drive bus Wrightbus launched in 1999. Since then David's roles have been focused on Product Development and Product Introduction. With both a Master's degree in Engineering (MEng - Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering) and an MBA, David has worked as both Senior Engineer and Product Manager. His experience includes the development of the Opus midibus for the US market, the Wright Bus for Hong Kong, the StreetCar and most recently the hybrid StreetCar destined for Las Vegas.

Linda Jamison, Collaborative Network Executive at Invest NI

Linda has for the past six years been working for Invest N.Ireland ( facilitating and supporting companies to develop business in Medical Devices, Offshore/Onshore Wind, Maritime, Biomass, Hydro, Smart Grid, ICT, Digital Content and related ICT sectors.

Linda has presented at international conferences on the topic of collaboration and carried out extensive research on; the role of leadership within collaborative networks and; how effective collaboration can provide a return on investment.

Estelle Lowry, Postgraduate Research, Centre for Vision and Vascular Science, Queen’s University Belfast

Estelle studied Biomedical Science at the University of Aberdeen and has a Masters in Public Health and Health Services Research. Now in her second year of a PhD in the Centre for Vision and Vascular Science in QUB, Estelle’s main projects have included investigating adverse effects of medications in elderly, hospitalised patients and looking at whether the wii fit can actually improve balance in elderly people. Her findings from these have been published and she has presented the results at various conferences in the UK.

Richard Hanna, Director of Education Strategy at CCEA

Richard is Director of Education Strategy for the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) with responsibility for developing policy advice related to curriculum, assessment and reporting and for providing support and guidance to schools. He is also responsible for implementing revised assessment and reporting arrangements.

Richard has held a number of management positions in CCEA which have included development and support for qualifications, e-learning and the use of ICT in support of teaching and learning. He is an experienced educator having spent 18 years in post primary education as a practicing teacher and school manager before joining CCEA.

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