St Aidan's students take up space at NASA

29 July

Ready to launch

Seven students from St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School have embarked on the journey of a lifetime which saw them travel to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to participate in the International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC) from 29 July to 31 July.

This isn’t the first time St Aidan’s has been invited to NASA, nor will it likely be the last, given our incredible history of success at the Australian Space Design Competition (ASDC), qualifying them to represent Australia in the international competition.

For the past 17 years, St Aidan’s has been a finalist in the Australian Space Design Competition, a feat unto its own given only a handful of schools across the nation qualify for entry.

What is more remarkable than this extraordinary achievement is the fact St Aidan’s has won six of these national competitions – in 2010, 2012, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023 – showing the depth of the educational excellence at the school.

Principal, Ms Toni Riordan said she was amazed but not surprised at the stellar results to date. “Events such as these are a powerful reminder of the passion and creativity our students have in all aspects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The teamwork, exchange of ideas and problem-solving skills demonstrated by our girls are nothing short of remarkable and we are so proud of their achievement.”

Seven St Aidan’s students and three supervising staff visited the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum before starting the three-day competition at the Kennedy Space Center on 29 July.

The International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC) is a global event that emulates, as closely as possible, the experience of working in an aerospace industry proposal team. Senior school students across countries including USA, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, India, China and Latin America are required to design a space settlement that can support human life, addressing issues such as energy management, transportation, and sustainability issues.

Entries are judged by a panel of scientists from aerospace companies including NASA, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and US Air Force, who listen to each team pitch their design and then ask questions. The winner is chosen based on the creative, ingenious, or innovative ways they achieve the goal of long-term human settlement and survival in space in response to the Earth’s rapid population growth.

The competition covers all aspects of the curriculum, encourages development of 21st Century skills, and provides students an incredibly rare and beneficial opportunity to work alongside industry leaders and top students from across the world.

Ms Riordan traveled with the St Aidan’s students to the USA and said she was excited about supporting the girls from the side-lines as they became fully immersed in the world beyond our atmosphere. “This event was a wonderful display of international collaboration, cross-cultural understanding, and an opportunity for our students to learn and implement industry-level leadership and management."

St Aidan’s students in Years 9-12 began their project in mid-2022, working within a company structure to develop their solution to the Request for Tender (RFT). Their submission was created over approximately five months and judged against other Australian schools. The top 10 schools from across Australia were then invited to send a team of 12 students to compete at the two-day Australian Space Design Competition held at The University of Queensland in January 2023.

During the Australian Space Design Competition industry simulation event, students join forces with peers from another school and once again respond to a RFT but are given only 48 hours. They design a fully functional space settlement; factoring in aspects such as structural engineering, operations, automation, infrastructure, personnel and business development. They are required to create roadmaps for how people will develop commercial interests and settlements in space. Some examples of tasks include future problems such designing a new settlement that will divert commercial and tourist traffic away from (fictitious) existing settlements. Another is designing an new urban city settlement on Venus that can handle the needs of ships, crews, and passengers who transport goods and do business in space. And also pose solutions to problems such reducing space debris in Earth’s orbit by designing a settlement and space habitat dedicated to orbital clean-up.

St Aidan’s students partnered with Patrician Brothers’ College from Blacktown, New South Wales during the competition and created the ‘company’ Magellan, which came first, making it the third year in a row St Aidan’s have taken out the National title.