Assistant Professors from the School of Engineering, Kevin Kelly and Conor McGinn, are the winners of the inaugural Registrar’s Civic Engagement Award. The pair are group leaders in the Robotics and Innovation Lab (RAIL) and have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to Trinity’s engagement with wider society through their teaching and research.
RAIL has a mission to be “an application-driven, interdisciplinary research group that is focused on the development of novel and innovative technical solutions that address major societal challenges.” The team, led by Professors Kelly and McGinn, inspire Trinity students and involve them in addressing societal needs. They also engage with and encourage young students — in particular running an Engineering Summer School for girls – as well as interacting with companies and not-for-profit organisations in their engineering projects.
One recent project they led, which had its roots in serving society, was the design of ‘Stevie’ — an elder-care robot and navigation device for people living with intellectual disability.
Their anonymous nominator for the award said: “They have created a culture of collaborative innovation and an associated ecosystem, where students — from secondary school to undergraduate and postgraduate level — can engage and work with academics, research engineers, private companies and not-for-profit bodies to produce positive societal impact.”
Over 20 nominations were received from across the three Faculties at Trinity for the awards this year, showing the breadth of civic engagement activities and the variety of ways the College works with our wider communities.
Speaking at a special event to mark the occasion, the College Registrar, Professor Paula Murphy, congratulated all of the nominees and noted that the selection panel had a difficult job, albeit an inspirational and enjoyable one.
Professor Murphy said: “There was a huge variety of work that was demonstrated through all of the nominations. From education to engineering, and from science to healthcare, there are myriad ways in which the University is working with and for society through teaching and research initiatives.”
The work of the selection panel was made difficult by both the impressive quality and variety of the projects. Eight other projects were short-listed. These were:
- Dr Steve Thomas and the Pathways project, Centre for Health Policy and Management, School of Medicine, which has contributed to the Oireachtas Committee on the future of healthcare
- Professor Anna Davies, Chair of Geography Environment and Society for enormous contributions to the management of our environment, in particular community-based sustainability innovations
- Professor Mary McCarron, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, for leading research on the Intellectual Disability Supplement to The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. This innovative project is the first in the world to directly compare the ageing experience, health, social and mental well-being of people with Intellectual Disabilities to the general population
- Professor Carmel O’Sullivan, School of Education, for the project Career Leap working with businesses and the community in the docklands on career readiness and employment, running a successful pilot and now enabling similar projects elsewhere
- Dr Martyn Linnie, School of Natural Sciences, as curator of the Zoological Museum, for its transformation to an engaging space where students interact with visitors. Students are trained to be mediators in a community education setting
- Cliona Hannon and Professor Brendan Tangney for their leadership of the Trinity Access 21 project, a joint partnership of Trinity Access and Bridge 21, promoting access to third level education through innovation in education, involving colleagues in mentorship and training
- Professor Gareth Bennett, School of Engineering, for his module “Universal Design Innovation”, where students work with external groups and organisations to meet specific societal needs through innovative design
- Professor Brendan Browne, Confederal School of Religions, Peace Studies and Theology, Course Co-ordinator of the Masters in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, for cultivating meaningful community interactions for his students, in both Belfast and Jerusalem
A special nomination was also made by the colleagues of Dr Fiona Larkan, former Director of the Masters Course in Global Health, who sadly passed away in December 2017.
Her colleagues noted Fiona’s commitment to the global community by saying: “As one of the founding members of the Combat Diseases of Poverty Consortium, she contributed to raising Trinity’s profile as a University embedded in and working within the wider society.”