Unite the Union Champions Cup Engaging in South Dublin Community

15th November 2023

Unite the Union, Shamrock Rovers and Sphero have launched an exciting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) education programme for the local community. As part of the sponsorship of the Unite the Union Champions Cup, Shamrock Rovers will w

Unite the Union, Shamrock Rovers and Sphero have launched an exciting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) education programme for the local community.

As part of the sponsorship of the Unite the Union Champions Cup, Shamrock Rovers will work with Unite the Union to implement the exciting educational resource developed by Sphero Sports. The equipment was on show at Tallaght Stadium with children from neighbouring schools learning and showcasing their skills at the launch event.

The equipment comprises of six 3 x 2 metre floor mats designed as football pitches, together with 15 interactive spherical robots which can be programmed by the participants to perform tasks, such as movements seen on a football pitch. This helps to develop STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) skills and provides an introduction to computer programming and block-based coding. Five local teachers have been trained up to roll out this STEM education in the local community and the programme will begin this month in schools across Tallaght and Clondalkin.

Speaking at the launch Unite the Union Community Coordinator Rhona McCord was delighted to see the community element of the tournament sponsorship take shape. "We embarked on this sponsorship unlike many other sponsors, we are not selling a product, we are trying to sell an idea to communities about solidarity, equality, respect and diversity. We decided to devote some of the sponsorship money to community work and in our first year we got to do some work with children in direct provision, providing equipment and training through the FAI who have been a wonderful partner to work with in terms of those community-based ideas and Shamrock Rovers are no different.

"Shamrock Rovers has a very good tradition in the community of working in schools and young people from all backgrounds, ages, shapes and sizes to instil that sense of community and belonging. When we heard about Sphero Sports, we thought this was a fantastic initiative that's really inspiring. You can see the children's faces lighting up as they are playing with the robots. They are having fun and learning at the same time, it's a wonderful resource."  

Shamrock Rovers Community Officer Tony O'Neill who spearheaded the project for the club spoke about how the resource will allow the club to fully engage with all children in the classrooms. "First and foremost as a club, we are trying to reach out and connect which we do by visiting schools and affiliate clubs in the community seven days a week. When we are asked to do a football session, that's easy as it's second nature but the real difficulty we came across was when there are a couple of kids who are not sport-minded and we're taking that class which is always a shame as they are not enjoying the pitch session. When we first saw the Sphero equipment, it was a “Wow!” moment as it allows the possibility to include the entire group.

"Education is there to empower and with these tools, we will hopefully play a very positive role in that in the community here. We are absolutely privileged to be part of the programme with Unite the Union and are all excited to roll it out now."

Former Chelsea Football Club Executive Matt Mead is now the Head of Corporate & Sports Partnerships at Sphero and was delighted to have the first Irish club roll out the programme. Mead said "The platform was launched last year and is a tool for clubs, their sponsors or charities to teach kids about STEM education through the power and attraction of football. Teaching the kids skills using robots and devices on a football pitch almost tricks them into learning skills that are really important for their future.

"Sphero Sports is now in nine different countries across Europe and the USA. We are working with Unite the Union and Shamrock Rovers for the first programme here in Ireland. It is great to have a team and sponsor coming together to fund the initiative, put it into schools and ensure that kids have the opportunity to learn these skills."

FAI League of Ireland Community Development Officer Derek O'Neill was on the journey with the club and Unite the Union. Speaking at the launch O'Neill said. "This is an exciting opportunity for Shamrock Rovers to extend their community outreach beyond football and to now start influencing the education of young kids in Tallaght and Clondalkin with this wonderful STEM learning equipment.

"The FAI League of Ireland Department is assisting clubs to develop their community engagement capacity and this programme is one of many that have been developed as part of the ongoing community development work. Hopefully, more SSE Airtricity League clubs will look to extend their community outreach and deliver community programmes centred on education, health and social inclusion. The League of Ireland Department is here to help clubs as much as we can in this regard."