Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Discovering the fun of STEM through Lego Robotics Summer Academy





Twenty-two members of Irish Girl Guides aged 14-22 took part in a Lego Robotics Summer Academy in Dublin City University's LEGO Education Innovation Studio. Here two of the participants, Maggie Cumiskey and Méabh Lonergan, tell us of their experience:

Before starting our LEGO camp journey, we were all very excited and a bit nervous.  Some people came with friends, some with sisters, and some went without knowing a single person.

We arrived in St Patrick’s campus, DCU, on the Monday morning. We were each assigned our own room in student accommodation, which comprised of a desk, bed, wardrobe and a sink.

Each day was different on the Robotics course. We were gradually introduced to the robots and the idea of coding. We started off rather simply with a cute robot called Milo. Building the robot was really fun as I think most of us hadn’t played with LEGO in years. It was really nice to be able to sit back and feel like a kid again! Coding Milo was also really fun and surprisingly easy. We followed instructions step by step to make him go forwards and backwards as well as make him stop with different sensors.

At first it was really daunting because I don’t think many of us had done any coding before. However, once we got into it, it was very easy. Each of us turned to our partner at some stage and said “That was us. We did that!” and maybe high-fiving each other every once in a while.

After Milo, we moved onto a new, slightly more complicated robot. We built him as normal but the coding was slightly different and way more specific. It was a lot harder to make him move and there was a lot more work involved to make him go. We had to measure the distance we wanted him to move and then calculate the number of wheel rotations needed to get there. My original thoughts were Oh dear God, maths. I haven’t done maths in two years!” It was very easy maths, though, so I was very relieved. We also could make this robot turn, unlike Milo, which took two robots. On this new one we had to be very specific and calculate the exact degree we needed. He was a lot more challenging but also a lot more fun. It was really cool to code it ourselves and make it complete little challenges that we were set.

We used this robot for the rest of the week in our “Mission To Mars project. This was so much fun and I think it’s safe to say the most enjoyable part of the week. We were all split into groups of four and given a new robot to build (We called him Tobias Walowitz and Brobot). The aim of this project was to build and code a suitable robot to complete up to seven challenges on Mars in under than two and half minutes. This was so much fun as we had the freedom to extend our robot and use the skills we had learned in the prevoius few days. We measured, calculated distances and angles like crazy. There were so many different emotions running through everyone those few days when it went right and when it didn’t. Needless to say, we were all very proud of our robots when we finished the challenges. Especially as both our teams came at a respectable first and second.

During the week, we heard talks from Dr Niamh Shaw, a woman who took part in a Mars simulation experience and Rosemary Steen, director of Eirgrid.  It was interesting to hear these women speak, and hear their opinions on how to succeed in male-dominated areas.

After we left the robotics room, we took part in a number of evening activities:  we went to the cinema to see Baywatch and Wonder Woman, went rock climbing in Awesome Walls, went to Bounce Zone, and finally visited Google and Milanos! These were a great way for us to push our comfort zone and get to know the others better.

We learnt a lot from this week: like, how to programme a robot (of course). It wasn't as hard as I imagined: so much of it was measuring and working out angles, before writing them into a basic code. I'd never played much with LEGO before and I was surprised at how easy it was to build a robot that could grab, lift, drop and spin things. Overall it was an excellent week and I think we were all sad to be going home. It definitely opened our eyes to the world of programming and computing, and especially how women can influence STEM.

One of the best parts of the week was because of the fact that, as we were such a small group (22), we all bonded really well with the others over the five days. Seeing each other push our comfort zones in the evening activities, watching each others’ creations fail and succeed, and supporting each other all the time, (and having impromptu singalongs to Fall Out Boy), made us become great friends, and feel almost like one big (and loud) family by the end of the week.

We'd like to thank Ross, Rob, Deidre, and all those at DCU for creating such a fab week, Rosemary and Niamh for giving up their time to talk to us, and Lorna and Emer for organising it, and making sure we didn't die or get lost in Dublin. And the other girls, for grabbing the opportunity with both hands (and not killing me every time I asked them could I use them on the IGG and SB Snapchat stories).

Make sure to sign up for next year!

Counting down the days until IGGNITE2017!

1,800 Girl Guides are counting down the days until the start of international camp!

IGGNITE2017, which starts on 30 July 2017, will see girls from 12 countries join Girl Guides from all corners of Ireland camping under canvas at Rockwell College, Thurles, Co Tipperary.

It will be the biggest ever Girl Guide camp to take place in Ireland!

There will be a total of 250 visitors, including Girl Guides from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Georgia, Zimbabwe and St Vincent and the Grenadines as well as England, Scotland and Finland.

“After two years of planning, we’re excited to be in the final days of the countdown until camp takes place,” says IGGNITE2017 Camp Chief Jenny Gannon. “We can’t wait to welcome all the girls and introduce them to the different kinds of fun and adventurous activities they’ll be taking part in during the camp.”

Activities will include kayaking, horse-riding, water obstacle courses, building rafts and rockets and playing quidditch as well as drama, music, body confidence, yoga, meditation and coding workshops. “The girls will also learn how to advocate for gender equality and to stand up for refugees and, by learning about the Sustainable Development Goals, it is hoped they will be enthused to make a difference in their local communities and overseas,” says Jenny.

“Guiding aims to ignite a social and environmental conscience in our members from age five-plus while they take part in team-building and problem-solving games and challenges. They learn how to speak out on issues that concern them and how to inspire others to take action too.


“Our overall aim is to see our members become responsible citizens of the world; that is part of our ethos. Guiding is also a wonderful place to make friends for life!”

Jillian van Turnhout nominated for WAGGGS World Board

Former IGG Chief Commissioner and former Senator Jillian van Turnhout has been nominated to run for election for the World Board of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

Jillian writes:

I am greatly honoured to be nominated by the Irish Girl Guides and Catholic Guides of Ireland to run for election for the World Board of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

In my volunteer and professional work, I instinctively advocate for children’s and women’s rights. From an early age, the Guiding flame burned brightly when I joined Brownies at the age of seven. The fundamental principles of Guiding and Scouting continue to be a beacon to guide me on my path through life.

WAGGGS has 10 million members in 146 countries across the world supporting girls and young women to develop their full potential as leaders and active citizens of the world. I believe we must see more women in leadership roles and this is one of the reasons that has motivated me to stand for election. I would bring my practical experience of working with Guides in my locality and leading the re-invigoration of the Irish Girl Guide national programme for girls and young women aged five to 30.

I would share my global knowledge of advocating for children’s rights at UN, European and national level. I believe my governance experience on European and national Boards would be an asset.


Anyone who knows me can see my belief in Guiding shines brightly. It is a tremendous honour to even be considered and I hope everyone can support me in my campaign to get elected to the WAGGGS World Board at the World Conference in September in India.  

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Europe Region Volunteer Training at Our Chalet

Jenna Goodwin, Jemma Lee and Elizabeth Moody all took part in the recent WAGGGS Europe Region Volunteer Training at Our Chalet. Here Elizabeth reflects on her experience:

Having applied to be a Europe Region Volunteer back in January and being accepted onto the Communication Working Group I was delighted that the time to actually travel to Our Chalet had come, so to say I was marking off the days on my calendar would be an understatement. The trip to Our Chalet wasn’t just for a nice holiday or a box to tick on my Guiding adventure but an opportunity to experience what it means to be a member of WAGGGS and to train with women from across Europe. Each volunteer would get a general training in each committee - External Relations, Growth, Gender and Diversity and Communication - and the general strategy of Europe Region for the Triennium (three years; don’t worry my sister didn’t know it either)! Every Working Group would get a detailed look at their specific task and the strategy they wanted to work on over the triennium, with a sponsor from the Europe Committee to bridge the gap between us and them. But the rest would be revealed when we arrived.

When I applied I thought that the chance of being accepted was slim to none as my experience levels weren’t everything I felt Europe Region wanted. So I was shocked and stunned when I got accepted. When I got over the excitement of being accepted then the feeling of doubt came in, moments where I questioned my experience or knowledge began. I questioned did I have what it took to make the most out of it for myself and for the team I was to be a part of. This feeling persisted till boarding the plane to Switzerland and arriving at Our Chalet as many of the people I met had more experience, but one thing for sure I wasn’t going to let my doubts slow me down.

I was one of three girls going to Our Chalet from Ireland to take part in the training. I was the only one to sit on the communications working group as the other two, Jenna and Jemma, were to be in the External Relations working group (you can imagine the confusion this caused two girls from Ireland whose names were basically the same, with similar features that both were on the same working group)! Our trip to Our Chalet was long and each of us took one bus to the
airport, a plane, a train in the airport, four trains and then a taxi. We arrived just after 1 o’clock in the morning and exhausted! We made our way into the very quiet Our Chalet to find welcome letters for each of us detailing which room we were to be sleeping in, where we could get a midnight snack and all the other basic information we needed. The best piece of information though was the complimentary wifi codes we were given because, you know what they say, if it isn’t on Instagram it didn’t happen. Safe to say we all immediately checked in online, had a midnight snack and crawled into bed.

The next morning we got up at 8am for breakfast not really knowing what to expect. We were welcomed by the slim few that were early birds too. We all tucked into a huge breakfast spread and COFFEE! We got chatting to all the different women from around Europe that had decided to take the plunge and volunteer on a working group. After breakfast we followed the blind leading the blind as we tried to find where all our sessions would be taking place in. Our first session was led by the chair of Europe Regions Committee, Marjolein: it was an introduction to the training and a look at Europe Region’s strategy for the next three years, the length of the Committee’s term.

The day continued with a few icebreakers and more sessions about the strategies of the individual working groups and, for those not in the know, what they were about. Thursday focused on two of the key areas – Gender and Diversity and Growth. After the sessions all the countries came together to have an international night where we got to share food and entertainment from the different countries.
We were offered a campfire song from Germany, the UK, and Denmark, a dance from the girls from the Czech Republic and Slovakia and Ireland decided to teach everyone how to do the Walls of Limerick. After the performances it was down to the important part, the eating! We enjoyed Viennese sparkling wine, haribos from Germany, the “best soda in the world” according to the Danish at the Scandinavian table and scones from the UK. Ireland certainly left our mark at the International Evening with everyone leaving with a lovely Irish (temporary) tattoo, let’s just say they were ready to be kissed.

The next morning there was a slight change of plans. Originally, we were supposed do our sessions in the morning and go for a hike in the afternoon but due to the weather this was rearranged. So after breakfast we all set out on our hikes – one to the village and one to the mountain in weather that could only be described as standing in a cloud with visibility only an arms width ahead of you and a constant drizzle of rain (the Irish were in their element). We were told this was better than the weather forecast for the afternoon. With this in mind I decided to join the group trekking to the village as there was a chance of shelter and a hot drink instead of imagining seeing the mountains. So we set out in all the waterproofs and warm layers and we arrived at the idyllic village of Adelboden where we took part in a scavenger hunt and only got as far as the question about the café where we stayed and chatted for the remainder of our time. We hiked back up to Our Chalet just in time for lunch.

After lunch the serious part of the training resumed again. The sessions focused on the work of the External Relations Working Group and the Communications Working Group. Included in the Communications presentation was a talk about the rebranding of WAGGGS. I found this really exciting as finally we got a more detailed look into exactly what I would get to work on and the background behind the new branding. Plus we got an impromptu break go out and play in the surprise snow.

That evening after dinner we took part in an exercise on Gender and Diversity. We listened to music from different countries and tried to guess where they were from and, let me tell you, I failed miserably: modern music is almost impossible to guess. We then looked at the kind of world we wanted to live in and the obstacles that were in our way but, in typical Guiding fashion, we didn’t just sit around and talk about it we visualised it through a game. Each person wrote on a sticky note two characteristics of the society they want to be part of. Then we wrote on two balloons our obstacles. We then helped each overcome these obstacles by bursting each others’ balloons.

Saturday was the day we got to work in our Working Groups. My group got the T-Bar which, for anyone who has been to Our Chalet, is the best room in the whole place as it’s got the comfy chairs and the coffee and tea. This became vital in my group as there were three British among the group who loved tea! The Communications Working Group is made up of four women from the UK, one girl from Denmark and one girl from Ireland, me (in case you didn’t guess). Our meeting consisted of two of the women from the UK, the Denmark Elizabeth, the Irish Elizabeth, as well as our sponsor from the Europe Region Committee, Lilit, and Ruth from the UK who work for WAGGGS Global as part of the communications team. We discussed the guidelines set out by the Europe Region’s Committee for what they considered was important for us to complete. We looked at how we felt we should achieve this as well as how we could work with the other committees. This all went into creating our strategy for the next three years.

That evening we took part in the Our Chalet Who Wants to be a Millionaire. This version of the game was very different to the TV original.  Our version was not only Guiding-themed but also included a challenge every round that typically involved running around Our Chalet, and in girl guiding fashion and with Olympic competitiveness my team fought successfully to win the competition.

The next morning was the last of day of the training weekend and there was already a feeling of sadness about leaving. We started off the morning again in our Working Groups to finalise our plans and figuring out how we were going to achieve our goals. After this all the Working Groups came back together to discuss their strategy and goals for the triennium. As well as discussing how we, each group, could work together. This is very
important for the Communication Working Group as we will liaise with the groups the most. After the presentation from the Working Group we had to wrap up just in time before it was time for the Irish to leave. We were the last group to leave on that day after many heartfelt goodbyes throughout the day.

The journey back to Ireland wasn’t as long or as complicated as the journey to Our Chalet, I wouldn’t even change that for the world or all the Badges in Our Chalet.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Excitement is building for IGGNITE2017!

Girl Guides from around the world are getting excited as the countdown for IGGNITE2017 continues … there’s only 73 days to go!

Irish Girl Guides look forward to giving a big Irish welcome to Guides from Canada, the US, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Georgia and Zambia as well as England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“We’re thrilled to have received such a great response and we’re looking
forward to hosting Ireland’s biggest Girl Guide camp,” says IGGNITE2017 Camp Chief Jenny Gannon. “Some of our Guides and Leaders have visited Rockwell already; it’s a great location and the grounds are perfect for camping. Having a lake is a definite bonus as the girls will have the opportunity to kayak and do other water-based activities.”

The camp will see the girls building rafts, rockets and volcanoes, playing quidditch, cooking international dishes
and doing an assault course as well as taking part in drama, music, body confidence, yoga, meditation and coding workshops. There will also be sessions on climate justice and sustainability and trainings on how to advocate for gender equality and to stand up for refugees.

Day trips will include a visit to Cloughjordan eco village and to nearby Cashel where the girls will take part in a community mural project.

“We want to give the girls a fun and memorable experience,” says Jenny. “As well as the water sports and all the many other fun activities we will arrange for them, there will be a serious side to the camp too. Through a variety of activities and challenges, the girls will learn about the Sustainable Development Goals and they will be encouraged to explore ways that they can make a difference in their local communities and overseas.”

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Trefoil Guild AGM 'full of friendship and enthusiasm'

Thirty-three people from SW Region, SE Region, WCM Region, NE Region and Eastern Region attended Trefoil Guild's AGM and the atmosphere was full of  friendship and enthusiasm. 

Seven new Lone Members were enrolled by our President Maureen Murphy and eight members  (including Maureen)  were presented with the first bead of the Evergreen Challenge.  

We were also very excited to launch our  new Journey book and 95 of these have now travelled to Guilds around the country.

We had presentations about the visit to Our Chalet that six members had made during the year and also a presentation from a member who had attended an event in Slovakia.


Looking forward, a visit to Lorne is planned for the autumn and a presentation was made about an IFSG gathering in Eastbourne in October 2018. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Join our Lego Robotics Summer Academy!

IGG members aged 15-25 are invited to take part in a Lego Education Robotics Summer Academy in DCU St Patrick’s campus, Drumcondra, from 26-30 June …