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Successful Cell Explorers participation to Galway Science & Technology Festival family day 2023!

Model teeny tiny cells, Prepare DNA from Banana and Run experiments to save Ireland from a new pandemic – this is just fraction of what enthusiastic mini scientists and their families could do at the Cell EXPLORERS workshops at this year’s Exhibition Day November 12th at University of Galway, as part of Galway Science and Technology Festival (GSTF).

This year, the university of Galway Cell Explorers team was made of 43 volunteers who directly engaged 452 young people and their family members. The team delivered 13 worshop sessions, and, in collaboration with Foróige and GSTF, also hosted 20 VIP families - allowing 60 participants to experience the festival for the first time.

Group photo of (most of) the CE volunteers at the GSTF 2023 Photo by Aengus McMahon

This was the Second return to facilitating in-person workshops at the GSTF Exhibition Day since 2019 – and it was a whopping success once again! We had three hands-on science workshops on offer: Fantastic DNA, Little Cells, and our Escape Room.

In the Fantastic DNA workshop, young people (aged 8-12 years old) were introduced to the exciting world of living things, cells and DNA, and were guided by CE explainers on how to extract DNA from bananas.

This year, Fyffes provided a crate of 12Kg of banana for the occasion, as they did for the Cork Carnival of Science last summer - thank you!

This workshop was led by CE volunteers Aoife O’Connell and Ciara Shortiss, two experienced team leaders and PhD researchers at the university of Galway. All the reagents for the workshop were prepared by our amazing prep volunteering team led by Angeline Anjani, a final year BSc biochemistry student and prep lab manager.

Snapshots of the Fantastic DNA workshop room by Aengus McMahon

In the Little Cells workshops, young people (aged 5-7 years old) found out more about the organs of the body and what they do to keep us alive, and got to make either a mini heart, nerve, or red blood cells from jumping clay – they could also turn this into a key charm or phone ring! This workshop was led by CE volunteer Alison Graham, PhD researcher in microbiology, who has developped the training and the set up of the workshop since 2018.

Snapshots of the Little Cells workshop room by Aengus McMahon

In the CE Escape room, young people (aged 12 years and up) searched for clues, solved puzzles and conducted experiments to identify a patient with a virus to avoid a new lockdown and escape the room! This workshop was led by Sarah-Beth Bradley, a member of the coordination team who works on the GROWS (Giving Real Oppotunities to Widen Particpation in STEM) project.

Family collaboration in the CE Escape room. Photo by Aengus McMahon

Surprise! We had the surprise to meet Professor Philip Nolan Director General of Science Foundation Ireland who was visiting the Galway Science and Technology Festival for the first time. Prof Nolan visited our 3 workshops and congratulated the team members for their dedication at engaging young people and their families into science. He was surprised in return and happy to meet Sarah-Beth, whom he lectured in the past at Maynooth University during her BSc Degree in Biomedical Sciences.

Professor Philip Nolan, SFI CEO with Sarah-Beth Bradley Cell Explorers coordinator at the University of Galway

The inaugral VIP family experience was run in collaboration with Foróige and Galway Science and Technology festival. As part of the Medtronic Foundation funded GROWS project aimed at widening participation in STEM, we hosted 20 families for a very special visit to the festival.

Families were enthuastically welcomed to campus in their own headquarters for the day by Dr Kristin Anderson, GROWS project manager, Professor Mark Healy,  Vice Dean for Public Engagement of the College of Science & Engineering, Niamh Frehill Medtronic Galway representative, Professor Olivier Thomas head of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, and Megan Depinna, senior youth worker at Foróige and collaborator on the GROWS project.

After their welcoming, families were provided with a scheldue of events including tickets to Fantastic DNA and an exciting show at the festival, family time, and lunch! Families were guided through campus by some expectional Cell Explorers University Ambassadors and sent off with some very fun science goodie bags! The event was run by Kristin Anderson alongside of Megan Deepina and Anne Murray of the festival. Stay tuned for a video on the experience!

Photos of the VIP Families Event by Muriel (CE) & Caroline (Foroige).

Cell Explorers University Ambassadors - from left to right : Yan, Phu, Auxiliadora,

Swathi, Brianna, Marion, Ishika (also present onthe day but not pictures: Manav & Tony)

Opening of the day from left to right : Prof M Healy, Dr K Anderson, Porfessor O. Thomas, N. Frehill, M Depinna

It was a fantastic day for everyone involved – which is reflected in the feedback left by participants - and collected by Talia Arcari, Cell Explorers National coordinator!

"The experiment was very interesting. It was smart to use the banana. It was a wonderful experience. I was very happy to do this. Hope to come here again!" (Fantastic DNA participant)
"Amazing job from all the team. Learning a lot about different science areas. Manuela explained everything very well and she was fun and patient." (Parent/Guardian - Fantastic DNA)
"I thought it was absolutely amazing. You should do a science fair more often. Thank you." (Parent/Guardian - Fantastic DNA)
"Great hands-on activities. Lovely that the children can bring home their own cell at the end too to encourage more chat about it at home!" (Parent/Guardian - Little Cells)
"Thank you very much for making science so interesting and fun for my 5 year old son. Top marks to the fantastic presenters." (Parent/Guadian - Little Cells)

Some VIP familiy feedback was:

"Thank you for giving us the opportunity and supporting the family on the day. The excitement on her face yesterday telling us all about it, she loved every minute of it"
"It was a wonderful day out. We received a warm welcome on arrival. There were lots of fun, interactive exhibits to play and learn from. My son loved being a scientist, he is very proud. My son chose the one (goodie bag) with a volcano toy experiment, with which he is chuffed. Thank you to everyone involved for being so kind and generous to us."
“We had a fabulous day in Galway. Thanks so much for inviting us. It was fab.” 

Thank you to the Galway Science Technology Festival and University of Galway for hosting us, and to their volunteers for managing our doors! – and to all the young people and family members that got involved in some science for the day.

We are already looking forward to GSTF 2024!!

Thank you !

The Galway Science and technology Festival has been collaborating and supporting us since 2013.

The Cell EXPLORERS workshops delivered this year were supported by Science Foundation Ireland and the Medtronic Foundation. The Cell EXPLORERS programme is also supported by the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, the College of Science and Engineering and the Galway University Foundation at University of Galway.

The operation of the National Network, development and dissemination of Fantastic DNA and Little Cells, and the development of the CE Escape Room and Science Club are supported by Science Foundation Ireland. The dissemination of the CE Escape Room and Science Club and Families experiential events are supported by the Medtronic Foundation, under the Giving Real Opportunities to Widen participation in STEM (GROWS) project. ​

Bananas for Fantastic DNA were kindly donated by Fyffes Ireland.

About Medtronic Foundation:

The Medtronic Foundation partners to improve lives for underserved and underrepresented populations worldwide, and support communities where Medtronic employees live and give. For more information, please


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