Amazon Web Services (AWS) has launched its first AWS Think Big Space in Europe in Tallaght, South Dublin, Ireland. The AWS Think Big Space was created together with South Dublin County Council (SDCC) and South Dublin Libraries to provide a place beyond the classroom for students to explore and cultivate an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) and STEAM-related careers.

AWS aims to provide students, educators and the broader community in Tallaght with access to high-quality resources for learning about cloud computing and technology. The launch follows the rollout of AWS Think Big Spaces in India and the US.

Launch of the AWS THink Big SPace
Jason Frehill, South Dublin County Council (SDCC); Joanne Reynolds, AWS; Paul Fusco, South Dublin Libraries; Councillor Alan Edge; Mike Beary, AWS; Thomas Rooney, Local Enterprise Office; and Justin Mulhern, Local Enterprise Office

“We are delighted to announce this exciting collaboration and the launch of the AWS Think Big Space in Tallaght,” said Paul Fusco, County Librarian with South Dublin Libraries. “The pace of technological advancement continues to accelerate, and libraries have always moved with the times. This is a perfect example of how by working with industry experts like AWS, South Dublin Libraries is adapting to help the children of today become the creative thinkers for tomorrow.”

AWS has a long history with SDCC, and in 2020, supported the Council in introducing the country’s first, custom-built, sustainable solution to provide low-carbon heat. The District Heating Scheme in Tallaght will provide heat recycled from an AWS data centre to public sector buildings, commercial space, and affordable rental apartments. It is projected to save 1,500 tonnes of carbon per annum during the first phase, the equivalent of a 60% per cent reduction in carbon emissions. It will also support Ireland in meeting its 2030 renewable energy targets.

Free STEAM workshops for schools

South Dublin Libraries and AWS will host an innovative program of events in the AWS Think Big Space. Events will take place every month and feature workshops in robotics and virtual reality (VR). In the robotics workshops, students will have the opportunity to gain an introduction to robotics technology, collaborate and create their own robots, and take on challenges with the guidance of trained instructors. Students and teachers will be encouraged to “Think Big” by using their creativity and imagination as they explore the technologies on offer.

The VR workshop is an experience for older students and is delivered by a VR and Artificial Intelligence (AI) expert. It includes an introduction to VR and AI technology, a hands-on experience where students have the chance to use VR headsets, and an introduction to the tools used to create VR content including Unity 3D, Unreal Engine and Amazon Sumerian.

“The possibilities with VR are boundless,” said Enya Schaefer, VR AI expert. “We want to use this time in the workshop to inspire young people to be creative and to consider a career in VR, or STEAM, by showing them what’s possible and introducing a clear path forward in terms of accessing training, types of qualifications, apprenticeship options and more.”

Benefits for the wider community

The AWS Think Big Space has been thoughtfully designed to ensure that students and the wider community have access to high-quality resources to learn about cloud computing and technology in an equitable way.

To achieve this, AWS has donated interactive screens, tablets, VR headsets and other resources to furnish the labs and create an immersive, hands-on approach to learning.

Student headset - AWS Think Big Space
Local student trying out the VR sets at the AWS Think Big Space in Tallaght
Mayor with headset - AWS Think Big SPace
Councillor Alan Edge at the AWS Think Big Space in Tallaght
Students2 AWS Think Big Space
Students from St. Kilian’s Senior National School Tallaght visiting the AWS Think Big Space in Tallaght
Mike headset picture - AWS Think Big Space
Mike Beary AWS Country Manager trying out a VR headset

“We’re so pleased to bring the AWS Think Big Space to Tallaght. We’re eager to see the positive impact it can have for both school students and the broader community,” said Mike Beary, Country Manager, AWS Ireland.

By providing additional STEAM learning resources as part of the AWS Think Big Space, facilitated by some of the best technical experts, we hope to help local students achieve their potential.

“We chose South Dublin as the first location in Europe to launch an AWS Think Big Space because of the Council’s focus on innovation and nurturing digital skills for the local community. We are deeply committed to the local communities in which we operate, and are excited to see how students and community members explore and cultivate STEAM-related interests in the AWS Think Big Space,” adds Mike Beary.

The AWS Think Big Space will also offer adult learners in the local community opportunities to improve their skills and knowledge of cloud computing by introducing them to AWS certifications, workforce development, internships, and career programmes.

Making this type of training accessible will support digital literacy in the local area and help individuals gain the confidence to join the growing tech workforce in Ireland.

AWS and Irish communities

For over a decade, AWS has invested in developing cloud infrastructure and services in Ireland. Across the country, AWS has also increased the number of Ireland based employees, expanded collaborations with colleges and universities, invested in skills programs and renewable energy projects, and strengthened relationships with local communities including in SDCC.

A report from Indecon found that over the last decade AWS has invested over €1 billion in capital and operational expenditure in South Dublin. In 2020, AWS’s investment in South Dublin led to an increase in economic output of over €280 million, including direct, indirect and induced effects. In the same year investment in data centers in South Dublin supported nearly 2,500 jobs directly and indirectly, rising seven-fold since 2011.

Beyond investment in data centers, AWS makes direct and focused investments into the communities in Ireland in which it operates. These investments range from product donations (like Amazon Fire Tablets and Echo Show devices for Tallaght University Hospital), and volunteering support, to tailored educational initiatives.

AWS’s education initiatives in Ireland include the AWS GetIT program and AWS re/Start. AWS is also now in its fifth year of a collaboration with Technological University Dublin on the Data Centre Technician program. The collaboration with the university provides 20 scholarship opportunities each year to members of the local community to learn the skills needed to prepare for a career in the cloud computing industry.

AWS employees in Ireland also look for opportunities where AWS can make a difference and build relationships that will benefit their communities. One such employee is Thomas Carroll, who has used his role at AWS to support hospitals and homeless shelters in his local area.

AWS InCommunities exists to support employees like Carroll who want to make a difference, and to set up long-term, innovative programs that will have a lasting impact in Ireland and the regions around the world where AWS employees work and live. AWS are steered by four pillars: local tech upskilling, environmental stewardship, employee engagement and STEAM Education, Access, and Equity. The AWS Think Big Space is part of the commitment to help support these pillars in Ireland.

Find out more about AWS InCommunities.