An intensive competition that could see secondary school students winning a trip to NASA’s Johnson space centre will be taking place at Imperial College London on the weekend of March 5th.
UK students have been invited to take part in the UK Space Design Competition, a residential competition sponsored by the UK Space Agency in which four “companies” of up to 40 students (from 16 different schools) compete to design the best international space settlement.
Representatives from the winning company will be awarded an all expenses paid trip to America to represent the UK in the Eighteenth International Space Settlement Design Competition, held at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.
Last year, representatives from the UK were part of the winning international company, named “Vulture Aviation”, and the organisers are hoping for similar success in 2011.
The competition aims to give secondary school students first-hand experience of what it is like to work in the aerospace industry.
Each team will have a go at being aerospace engineers, exploring how to overcome a range of design challenges as they develop their proposals. These will include how to grow food in space and recycle air so that it is breathable, how to maintain communication with the Earth from deep space and how to protect inhabitants from the dangers of radiation. The students will also have to work out how to design comfortable workspaces, homes and recreational facilities.
Working in large teams, students will also have to explore different ways of organising themselves into efficient working departments. They may also have to overcome scientific and, at times, personal differences to ensure the “company” runs smoothly.
They will be guided in these efforts by a dedicated team of science, engineering and management professionals. A video documentary crew will also be following the competitors.
Dr Randall Perry, from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, will be one of the panellists choosing the UK team. He says:
“Students will get a chance to talk to world leading scientists and engineers at the cutting edge of space exploration. We hope they will be inspired and see that there are many exciting and varied career opportunities available in these fields. Who knows, we could be inspiring the next generation of engineers who will, one day, design real space settlements for the colonists of the future.”
Joseph Dudley, aged 16, from Southwark’s City of London Academy was president of the winning UK team in 2010 and said of their success: “There was a moment of disbelief. For me this was an amazing opportunity to get involved with, especially since my school was a last minute addition as another school were unable to join the competition.”
The UK Competition takes place over the weekend of 5-6th March this year with the International Finals being held in late July/early August.
Journalists and science education professionals are welcome to visit Imperial College London and watch students working on their designs but are requested to contact the competition’s science and media chair, Daniel Went, beforehand.