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Pi-Bot takes NUIG campus by storm



Those walking around the NUI Galway campus over the last week may have encountered a cute little fella familiarising himself with his academic surrounds.

Standing at just 15 cm tall, Pi-Bot 2.0 left its native Maker Space home in the university’s library on Monday.

The mechanical masterpiece does in fact have ultrasonic eyes to avoid objects on the ground.

It also possesses infrared sensors to help it follow a mapped out track leading it to its designated destination at the Aula Maxima.

Running at just three metres a minute to reach its 450 metre goal, the miniature mechanism has taken on quite the feat.

But it did make the gruelling trek all the way to the Aula Maxima on Thursday – just in time for its EXPLORE showcase.

EXPLORE is NUI Galway’s answer to partnering students and staff up to deliver innovative ideas.

Maker Space – where little Pi-Bot 2.0 was born – is the facility to carry out those innovations, with advanced technological equipment and software all provided. The bot comes with its own student card to navigate around campus and driving rock anthems to keep him chugging along.

“Its little eyes are so cute! I’m sure it will have a bout of trouble bumping into things along the way,” said EXPLORE Coordinator Amber Walsh Olesen.

Hardiman Library IT Manager Connell Cunningham, Physics PhD student Sean O’Gorman and Physics Professor Martin Leahy are the brains behind the bot.

“We designed the arduino modelled robot with Maker Space tools to promote the facility,” explained Connell.

“One such service the space provides is a 3D printed frame, and this was an invaluable asset in the making of Pi-Bot 2.0.”

In addition to the electronics, photonics and robotics skills gone into the making of their little pal, all three have taken strongly to social media, utilising the space’s Adobe Suite to create eye-catching photos, videos and maps.

Sean is the initiator behind the bot, and says that after approaching Maker Space, he got the opportunity not only to see his idea come to life but also to learn invaluable skills.

“I think this is the best vehicle to get people interested in science,” he said.

“When someone takes ownership in making something, they become more interested in the science behind it. It communicates skills far better than just a piece of paper.”

Pi-Bot 2.0 is currently in the prototype phase during which all three are establishing the level of difficulty in building the bot.

Having established how to create the bot themselves, they will now design kits which will show students how to put their own programmed pal together.

“We’ll be using these kits under NUI Galway’s Outreach programme to show primary and secondary schools across Ireland how to design their own bot,” said Connell.

“September to October is the timeframe we are aiming towards, so we can have it ready for the start of the academic year.”

The bot will also be showcased to students at NUI Galway, with demonstrations, workshops and guest appearances to take place over the course of the next year.

The project team have received preliminary funding to test Pi-Bot 2.0 from SPIE, the international society which advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education and career and professional growth.

The EXPLORE programme was initiated in early 2012 by NUI Galway Students’ Union and NUI Galway.

It provides seed funding and support to students and staff partners to work in equal partnership for benefit in the wider community.

To date, it has funded over 100 new projects involving more than 600 students and staff.

These projects have gone on to raise more than €290,000 of additional funding.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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