Potential NASA links for Science City 2015

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‘Music City 2014’ may soon become ‘Science City 2015’ with proposals to bring over US academics with potential links to NASA to speak in Londonderry in the early Spring.

Last month Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry met with officials from Derry City Council to discuss the potential for Londonderry to become ‘City of Science and Innovation 2015.’

According to a briefing note prepared in advance of the meeting, which has been obtained by the Sentinel, plans are afoot to facilitate a ‘Year of Science’ here throughout 2015.

As well as fulfilling elements of the ‘Legacy Promise,’ announced during UK City of Culture 2013, the initiative would also emulate similar initiatives in Dublin (City of Science in 2012) and Brighton, which have proven successful in the past.

According to the note circulated internally by the DEL Skills Policy Branch: ”Derry City Council have indicated that the main focus of the meeting will be to discuss a proposed ‘Year of Science’ in Londonderry in 2015.

“This forms part of the ‘Legacy Promise - Building on the Success of 2013’ report.”

The document goes on to explain that the inaugural Northern Ireland Science Festival, which is scheduled to take place from mid-February to early March 2015, mainly in Belfast, could be extended to Londonderry to support a ‘Year of Science’ here.

It’s proposed that academics with potential links to the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) may give talks in the city.

“The Department is supporting the Northern Ireland Science Festival in February 2015. Yvonne Spicier, Director of the Boston Museum of Science, has agreed to come to Northern Ireland to present a ‘masterclass’ to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) educators during the Festival.

“Yvonne has also agreed in principle to extend the trip to include a presentation at Magee Campus as part of the festival.

“In addition Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has agreed to send a speaker during the festival, with potential links to NASA.

“Although these activities form part of the wider Northern Ireland Science Festival there is scope to include them as Departmental support for the ‘Year of Science’ in Derry if necessary.”

Whilst ‘Music City 2014’ is ongoing and ‘Maritime City 2016’ is scheduled, ‘Science City 2015’ grows from the ‘Legacy Promise’ to make Londonderry a focus of ‘Creativity and Learning’ next year.

It appears this has now crystallised as a ‘Year of Science.’

What’s being proposed, according to the DEL documents, are a 12 month awareness programme of industry opportunities, a business development programme, a year long ‘Festival of Science’ with an Arts/Science Programme, the implementation of a North West STEM Action Plan and a programme of engagement with young people, including “Coderdojo (IT), FAB LAB (Engineering) and DIY BIO (Biotech).

The next steps are that there is further stakeholder engagement and programme development. It will also be necessary to secure funding and develop a marketing plan.