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During the June Programme, the Biology Department challenged the pupils to create a piece of artwork with a biological focus. Biology and art are cosy bed-fellows, and their evolution has intertwined throughout history. Art provides an opportunity to study living things, and their parts, in extraordinary detail thus improving our knowledge and understanding of the world around us. Pupils could use a variety of media to explore biological art in one of the following five themes: plants, animals, inside the cell, viruses or anatomy.

The entries have now all been received and our judge, Old Columban and botanical artist Holly Somerville, has decided on a winner. Many congratulations to Zofia Cannon-Brookes (Form III) for her piece ‘Inside we are all the same‘. Holly remarks: “It combines excellent illustrative qualities with painterly skills, while at the same time reminding us of such an important and timely issue. A superb design!” Zofia wins a signed print of Holly’s wonderful painting ‘Sanctuary’ (shown above).

‘Inside we are all the same’ by Zofia Cannon-Brookes

The following pupils and their paintings were all ‘Highly Commended’: Kate Higgins (Lung Flowers), Elena O’Dowd (Vibrant Skull) and Isabel Warnock (Coffea arabica). Each will receive a copy of either Animalium, Botanicum or Anaticum – wonderful books celebrating the best of biological art.

On Friday evening we were delighted to host a live webinar with Professor Luke O’Neill from Trinity College Dublin. Professor O’Neill gave an hour-long masterly analysis of the Covid-19 situation in Ireland and around the world and shared the latest developments in the hunt for a vaccine, and the potential of anti-viral and anti-inflammatory drugs to help fight the infection. He also shared his own recent research, which is showing some promise.

Professor O’Neill was joined online by over 50 pupils, parents and staff, who contributed to a really great question & answer session in the second half of the talk. Professor O’Neill impressed with his knowledge, common sense, humour and, above all else, positive outlook in the fight against Covid-19. We are enormously grateful to Professor O’Neill for giving up his time to spend with the St. Columba’s College (online) community.

Professor O’Neill’s talk is now available online by clicking here (pupils and parents will require their FireFly log in credentials to access).

Luke O’Neill is a Professor of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin and one of Ireland’s leading science figures. He has been a prominent figures on Irish radio and TV over the past number of years and in particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing evidence-based advice for the general public on minimising the risk of contracting Covid-19.

We are delighted to announce that Professor O’Neill will host a live webinar for pupils, teachers and parents on Friday April 24th at  7:00pm. The title of his presentation is “A frenzy of activity: vaccines, antibodies, anti-virals and anti-inflammatories against COVID19“.

To join the webinar simply click on FireFly logo above. This post contains the details of the Google Meet link  (you will need to log in to your FireFly portal to access). Professor O’Neill will give a short presentation before taking some questions from those attending (you can add your questions into the “chat” during the webinar).

We are delighted to announce details of this year’s Cultural Trip to London.  The trip will take place over the January Exodus (Friday Jan 24th to Monday 27th Jan) and is open to pupils in Forms IV and V, but is currently limited to 40 places (but this may increase). Places will be allocated on a “first come, first served” basis. The estimated cost of the trip is an all-inclusive €550, which includes:

  • Return flights between Dublin to London.
  • All bus, rail and underground transfers.
  • Three nights luxury hostel accommodation in Meininger Hotel, South Kensington (adjacent to the Natural History Museum), with breakfast, packed lunch and evening meals.
  • Tickets to a West End musical (show to be confirmed).
  • Ticket to cinema in Leicester Square.
  • A Thames cruise.
  • Dinner in Leicester Square restaurant on one night.
  • All entry fees & tours for museums and attractions including: The Science Museum, Covent Garden, Natural History Museum, Imperial War Museum, National Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum, Tower of London, Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum.
  • A visit to China Town during Chinese New Year celebrations.

There is a jam-packed itinerary for the pupils, catering for a wide array of interests, and is a great way to experience London and see all its major attractions and museums.

To secure a place for your son or daughter please complete this online permission slip (please note, passport details are required at the time of booking). A deposit of €220 is also required and can be paid by cheque (made payable to St. Columba’s College). Alternatively, the deposit can be lodged directly into the College bank account (details available upon request).

If you require more information please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Jones or Mr. O’Shaughnessy.

On Tuesday twenty Transition Year pupils visited Microsoft Ireland’s newest building, One Microsoft Place, to explore their ‘Dreamspace’ – a wonderful space for young people to learn more about technology. On arrival, the pupils were given a tour of the amazing award winning building, where some of the highlights include the yoga cube, the wellness centre, the amazing “mountain” stairs, the roof garden and the LED waterfall. After the tour they settled into the amazing Dreamspace – a vibrant learning environment – discussing Microsoft’s contribution to technology in their lives before exploring their latest innovations in assisted technology for those with disabilities. The learned about the skills needed to thrive in STEM careers, with a focus on development of soft skills. Then their first challenge – a team building / problem solving task – the Marble Track. With a few assorted household items, each team had to create a track for a marble to travel before settling within a small square of graph paper. There were no rules except that is couldn’t be pushed and had to stop on the graph paper. Each team took a different approach (there was some astounding creativity on show) but all ended successfully completing the task (one team broke the record). But then it was on to the main task – a brief introduction to coding via the Mirco:bit software and hardware. The pupils learned about the basics of coding before programming their own devices, using Microsoft surface tablets, to play a game of rock, paper, scissors. Later they learned how to send messages from one device to another.

The pupils thoroughly enjoyed their experience and, no doubt, stoked their interest in STEM and coding (incidentally this week is European Code Week). We would like to thank Microsoft and their Dreamspace team for a most enjoyable, wonderful learning experience.

The Form I pupils enjoyed a jam-packed science trip to Northern Ireland last week. Over three days they took part in a range of themed activities, most with a focus on science or team building, and arrive back in the College exhausted but enriched by the experience. The trip began early Wednesday morning, with Storm Abi blowing wildly, when the pupils boarded the bus. The fabulous Armagh Planetarium was their first stop – an amazing centre for astronomy – with the pupils learning about the origins of the universe, life as an astronaut and how we are all made from stars. Unfortunately the wind prevented them from participating in the annual rocket building challenge but there was plenty of opportunity to explore the exhibits. Later the group travelled to Belfast and the wonderful W5 science museum. They had great fun exploring the various floors of the complex and traversing their climbing frame. That evening the group went for a long walk (they had lots of energy still, amazingly) and did a little star gazing. Under clear skies they learned about constellations and spotted planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars – all visible with the naked eye.

The second day was all about team building and getting to know each other a little better. The group travelled to Castlewellan and Life Adventure Centre. The pupils took part in some fun teach building games before building their own rafts. After lunch the launched the rafts and raced them on the lake, later doing some fun activities in the water. Finally, they worked as a team to escape the ‘Peace Maze’. That evening, on their return to our host town of Portaferry, the pupils competed in a quiz.

The final day was all about ecology – the study of living things and their interactions with one another. After packing their bag, the group walked the short distance to Exploris aquarium & seal sanctuary – another brilliant kid friendly attraction. There they learned about food chains and the impact humans are having on the ocean environments. Later that afternoon they travelled to the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre where they continued the ecology theme. The carried out pond and woodland fieldwork, collecting and identifying the various wildlife in those ecosystems.

It was a wonderful trip. Everyone was rather exhausted by the time they return on Friday evening (including the teachers) but stronger friendships were forged and the pupils scientific interest piqued. Many thanks to Ms Hennessy for the organisation of the trip. Here is a collection of photos from the trip:

After the College’s huge success in last year’s pan-european CanSat competition (St. Columba’s were crowned Irish champions and went onto place 2nd in Europe), a new crew of Transition Year pupils want to follow up on the success on ‘Canny Potter’ with their own satellite ‘Can Solo’. Form IV pupil Calina Sacolax reports from a recent CanSat workshop at Dublin Institute of Technology.

Some members of the 2017 CanSat team give some soldering advice to the 2018 hopefuls.

Last Thursday (December 7th 2017) the new Cansat team were invited to a workshop in Dublin Institute of Technology, Kevin St. Our successful Canny Potter also attended to speak and give advice to the future cansat teams. On arrival we were given a talk about teamwork and presentation skills and shown tips on how to improve our public speaking and how to make an interesting presentation. Soon after the talk last year’s winners ‘Canny Potter’ from St. Columba’s gave an interesting and informative presentation on their experiences in the European Competition back in June.

The team couldn’t stress enough the importance of teamwork and making plans. They told everyone to get the primary mission working and then to start adding the additional sensors that corresponded with the aims of the project. After their presentation they took questions. Canny Potter was a hit with all the schools and were practically treated like celebrities. Many people want to take a picture with the European runner-ups and asked for tips and ideas from their projects. They were glad to help, shared their experiences openly and meet everybody. Team ‘Can Solo’ know that the pressure is on them particularly after last years’ very successful project.

The team then participated in a soldering workshop. Nobody in ‘Can Solo’ really knew how to solder properly but with the help of the mentors our team learned pretty quickly. Practice makes perfect so we will continue to practise until we become masters at the art of soldering.

We are happy to have made such an educative and helpful trip and look forward to building our satellite in a can next term for the regional competition in March.