The future of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the Mid-West shone in the brightest regional spotlight as the final of the 2022 BD STEM STARS Award took place at the company’s Research Centre Ireland (RCI) in Limerick.

Students from five shortlisted schools put a brilliant best-foot forward with projects focused on tackling unmet health issues for the annual showcase aimed at encouraging the best young STEM minds in the region to deepen understanding of their capacity to transform health in the years ahead.

The STEM STARS Award for schools in Clare, Limerick and Tipperary is a BD RCI initiative aimed at promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects at secondary school level. BD – one of the world’s leading med-tech companies -also promotes STEM at its RCI through a bursary and scholarship programme for UL students its National Technology Park, Limerick.

The STEM STARS programme, which is supported by the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, is the biggest awards progamme of its kind kind in the region, offering a total prize-fund of €25,000, with the top prize of €10,000, which will go towards stem related facilities at their school, going to Maha Shahzadi from Coláiste Nano Nagle. Maha grabbed the attention of judges for project, which saw her develop an accessibility app for visually impaired people that allows them shop independently.

The judging panel, however, had their work cut out for them as each of the five finalists came with inspired projects and presentations.  Second place went to Salesian Secondary School in Pallaskenry, who have carried out an investigation into the use of external electrical stimulation in the treatment and management of Reynaud’s disease. They walked away with €6,000 their school’s STEM facilities. Third place and a €4,000 prize went to Desmond College, Newcastlewest for their wearable early warning system to alert children and their parents of UV rays that cause skin cancer.

Meanwhile, the final two shortlisted schools, Thomond Community College, Limerick and Coláiste Mhuire Co-Ed in Thurles, received Special Commendation Certificates and a €1,000 each for their projects.  Thomond Community College explored how to reduce incidents of concussion in high impact sports and Coláiste Mhuire Co-Ed, Thurles have created an that helps to manage diabetes including a feature for students to contact a teacher if having a hypo or hypoglycemic episode.

The schools submitted their final entries to BD last month and were assigned a mentor from the company to work with them on the project. The students had to show how they firstly identified an issue and then how, through research, testing and learning, their approach to solving it by using what they learn in STEM subjects.

The STEM STARS finalists’ interest and understanding of the exciting growth sector was further piqued during the day as they were given guided tours of the high-tech laboratories at the facility before the winners were announced.

Speaking after receiving the award, winning student Maha Shahzadi said: “I feel absolutely incredible and really proud to have won BD STEM Stars 2022.  STEM is huge for me, especially as a female because there’s currently not as many females in the STEM area. So, I would like to like get involved in that area and be part of big changes in the world.”

Maha’s teacher, Ms Kelly Walsh, said the school is beaming with pride over Maha’s achievents. “The BD STEM STARS competition has been an amazing experience for our school and especially for Maha. It’s not just about the competition. It was getting the opportunity to come here today to one of the largest med-tech companies in the world and to see how they go about addressing some of the biggest health challenges in the world today. It’s also the biggest competition of its kind in the region and we are going to put the prize fund to great use in our school, developing the infrastructure of our labs.”

Padraig Fitzgerald, BD RCI’s Site Director said: “This event is now in its third year and we were blown away today by the standard of the projects. Our overall objective is to help promote awareness among students of the possibilities within STEM, from the potential to impact real and positive change on human health to the rewarding careers that can be forged in the sector,” said Mr Fitzgerald. “We also want to widen understanding of the diversity of roles within STEM as the opportunity and potential is there for so many people to have life-long, meaningful careers in the area.

“The standard of entries this year were again fantastic. The innovation, the focus and the desire to make a difference of the students was so encouraging.  We can be very confident about the future of STEM if the standard we saw today is representative of what is out there. For our part, we’ve been able to give the students a taste of what it’s like to work in a world-class facility.”

Donncha O Treasaigh, Director of Schools at the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board said: “Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, the state education and training authority for the Limerick and Clare region in Ireland is delighted to partner with BD in promoting this innovative and exciting competition across schools in the region. We wish to congratulate all students, their teachers and school communities for helping to inspire and motivate students to engage in STEM and helping to transform the lives of our students, our learners and communities. Our ETB is very committed in responding to the student, learner, community and enterprise needs in our region.”

To find out more about the winning entries and the BD STEM Stars winners from this year and previous years, visit stars.

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