Wiring Ireland’s knowledge economy

Wiring Ireland’s knowledge economy


Company co-founders, Niall McCormick and Colmán Munnelly, are connecting schoolchildren to the future through robotics and high-speed broadband.

Sitting in Niall’s family home in Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Niall McCormick and Colmán Munnelly are busy building their business. The pair are co-founders of Colmac Robotics, an ed-tech start-up that sees them teach children as young as six how to design and build robots. As they equip Irish schoolchildren with knowledge for the future, back at Niall’s, the co-founders are thinking about Colmac’s own future. The pair are keen to expand on the company’s initial success and believe it’s the basic things, such as high-speed broadband, that will get them there.

“Robotics encompasses everything that we think a knowledge economy should be teaching,” says Niall of his company’s relevance in today’s world. Teaching children robotics will fuel their interest in technology and equip them to enter Ireland’s fastest-growing sector. Schools and parents evidently agree. Following a batch of successful summer workshops, the duo are now preparing to host a number of Halloween workshops in Sligo and Mayo. The start-up co-founders are also kept busy with regular visits to local schools, teaching children that range in ages from six to 13.

The classes aren’t just fun for kids; they’re educational. “Robotics is cool; everyone wants to be a part of robotics,” says Niall. “It’s kind of undercover learning – you’re doing all of this complicated stuff; you could be using maths, you could be using physics and you don’t think of it as that. You’re thinking: ‘The robot needs to get from here to here. How many degrees do I need to turn the wheels to do that?’”


Now, Niall and Colmán want to expand their business and access a wider customer base through offering online courses. To realise that goal, the pair must be able to quickly and efficiently upload tutorial videos, as well as update the website constantly. “Broadband will play a big part,” says Colmán.

In fact, from online banking to Skype conferences, it plays a large part in every aspect of their business. And as Colmac Robotics continues to count Niall’s family home as its head office, the ambitious directors must be certain that their infrastructure doesn’t suffer as a result. “High-speed broadband has made a major difference,” says Niall of the company’s open eir service. “There’s no backlog and everyone is able to work out of the house. There’s no one shouting down at you from upstairs telling you you’re using all of the bandwidth.”

And for Colmán, a smooth-running operation means more than just financial success. “I love teaching kids,” he says. “You see that flicker in their eye and you know you’ve started something.”