School pupils NASA-bound after mission success
8 March 2011
School pupils will be jetting off to NASA’s Johnson Space Centre for the international finals of a space settlement design competition after triumphing in the UK round of competition, organised by Imperial.
Space 2017: In the darkness a small sign of civilisation glints into being – a colony built to host a thriving community of 8,500 people living and working on a sun-orbiting space station.
Who were the masterminds behind the design and engineering of this new colony? UK school pupils aged 14 to18, who spent last weekend at Imperial working on a brief to design a space settlement that shuttles between the orbits of Earth and Mars. The pupils were split into four competing companies, appointing presidents and senior managers amongst themselves, before undertaking two days of intense research and design, supported by volunteers from Imperial’s staff and students.
Watch a video of last year’s competition:
Their efforts culminated in a showdown where they presented their designs to a panel of judges, including academics and representatives from Boeing and the UK space agency.
The victorious team, whose design featured a ring-shaped space station called Cassandras, powered by the Sun, will be sending representatives to NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas to represent the UK in the finals of the International Space Settlement Design Competition later this year.
President of the winning company, Amy Gregg from Pates Grammar School said: “I didn’t even think we’d get this far. It’s just incredible. I’m really happy and I’m really proud of my team. We had so few people and loads of work! I’m just really happy!”
The team consisted of pupils from The City of London Academy, Sheringham High School, Pates Grammar School, Lumen Christi College and Chatham Grammar School for Boys.
Imperial postgraduate student Daniel Went from the Department of Physics is one of Imperial’s staff and student volunteers, giving up time to help organise or participate in the weekend. He said:
“A lot of people think this competition is about science and engineering and, on paper, it is. But in taking part and helping out you quickly realise there’s a lot more to it than that. This is a weekend where imaginations run wild and where children mature in front of your very eyes. Sacrificing a weekend is a small price to pay to witness that.”
Dr Anita Gale, who was present as a judge, co-founded the International Space Settlement Design competition in 1984 to combine a real insight into the pressures and needs of industry, structured around a brief which would grab the attention and imagination of young people.
She was also on hand to present the Dick Edwards Award for Excellent Company leadership to four students, from Seven Kings High School, Riddlesdown Collegiate, Sheringham High School and Cardiff Sixth Form College. The award is named in memory of her late husband and the competition’s co-founder.
The UK semi-finals of the competition were organised by Dr Randall Perry from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering. It was sponsored by Imperial College London, the UK Space Agency and the Space, Science and Engineering Foundation.
— John-Paul Jones, Communications and Development