What to Expect

This page is aimed at students and supervisors attending the competition. Information for parents and carers can be found here. If you have any concerns not covered in this page, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.

Regional and Galactic Challenges

The format for Regional and Galactic Challenges varies depending on the constraints of the venue, but is largely the same as that described below for the UK Final, condensed into one day. Regional competitions generally start at 8.30 am with registration, and finish at 9.30 pm after the presentations and judging. Galactic Challenges follow the same format, but finish earlier in the day, at around 5 pm.

The UK Final

Registration begins at the main entrance of Imperial College London (South Kensington Campus) at approximately 08:30 on the first day.

Students are divided into 5 different companies each consisting of around 50 students from a variety of different schools and backgrounds. Each company will be mentored by an adult Executive Chair, with extensive managerial experience.

The first job of each company is to choose a student president and to appoint members and directors of each of the five departments required to satisfy the Request for Proposal. These departments are:

  • Structural Engineering
  • Operations Engineering
  • Human Engineering
  • Robotics & Automation Engineering
  • Business & Marketing

The Executive Chair gives recommendations as to how to do this but, ultimately, structuring the company and appointing its leaders is the responsibility of the students. Each department attends a dedicated briefing session where they will learn more about their special function, and a representative of the Foundation Society offers a Request for Proposal (RFP) to the company president. This document lists all of the requirements that the design must satisfy.

Competitors are expected to work on their designs until at least 17:00 on the first day, but facilities and staff will be available at Imperial College until 22:00 when the campus closes. These facilities include a company headquarters, paper, pens, a design library, and a scanner. After 22:00, students are expected to retire to their hotel rooms. The day does not necessarily end there though and, in the past, many successful companies have opted to work on their designs proposals right through the night as well. Hotel shift work is usually a necessity!

Accommodation is provided by the Space Science & Engineering Foundation on Saturday night. We can also arrange accommodation on the Friday night if necessary. (Contact j.lyons@uksdc.org if this is the case). Catering is provided by the Space Science & Engineering Foundation with kind support from Imperial College London, the UK Space Agency and Royal Academy of Engineering. We are also grateful for the support of the Exilarch’s Foundation and the Penelope Foundation throughout the finals.

Final designs must be submitted, in the form of a 30-50 slide presentation, by the early morning of the second day. Judging begins at approximately 09:00 as each company gives a 30-minute presentation on their design. The winners are announced in the early afternoon and all activities will be concluded by approximately 17:00 on the second day.

The International Final

The winning company at UK final is awarded twelve places at The International Space Settlement Design Competition held at a NASA space centre in the USA. This typically takes place during the last weekend in July or the first weekend in August, and the vast majority of costs are paid for by the competition organisers and its sponsors. We are especially thankful for the support of Trailfinders Chairman, Mike Gooley.

The students in the winning company vote for each other, and the results of this are combined with the suggestions of the company’s adult Executive Chairs and the observations of the volunteers to produce the final list of 12 for the UK’s international team. The majority of the team is selected from the results of the students’ vote, and the UKSDC organising committee will only intervene to alter this in exceptional circumstances.

Nine of the 12 students are selected by a blind vote, the additional three are selected based on the recommendations of the company’s Executive Chairs and other volunteers to ensure the team is well balanced.

The experience at ISSDC is very similar to that at UKSDC, but each company consists of students from all around the world, and faces a more complex task. There is a full extra day to work on the proposal before presenting it to the judges, so there’s plenty of time to iron out any problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will teams be broken up when competing?

No. You will enter the UKSDC as a team and you will compete as a team. Companies are formed by merging three or more individual teams together. However, teams that try to retain their cohesion after being placed inside a company typically put themselves (and their colleagues) at a disadvantage. The Competition is all about team work and, while a few anxieties are to be expected at the beginning, most people make fantastic new friends by the end of the weekend.

Can I request accommodation before the competition as well or help with travel expenses?

Unfortunately the Space Science and Engineering Foundation does not have the financial means to provide complimentary transport or additional accommodation, but we will do our best to provide accommodation for those with a long distance to travel to the final. We will also be happy to help teams in this situation organise their own transport and accommodation in any way we can.

Is car parking available at Imperial College London?

Yes. On the Saturday complimentary parking is available a few minutes’ walk from the main competition venue. Parking must be organised well in advance of the event – please provide us with accurate vehicle registration numbers and the name of the driver as soon as possible after you are accepted. Please check local parking information for on road parking over the competition weekend.There is free parking on Sunday outside the venue.

How are students and supervisors assigned hotel rooms?

Students will be expected to share with other students from the same and other schools in non-mixed accommodation (up to 4 per room). Supervising adults will be asked to share with one or two other adults of the same gender.

What can teachers and adult supervisors do during the competition?

Teachers are welcome to attend any of the briefing sessions they like but are discouraged from playing an active role in formulation of student designs. Feel free to advise the students when you see them going wrong, and to answer any scientific questions they may have, but remember that ultimately their design is their design. Independence is a valuable part of the competition experience. A supervisors’ room is made available, and there is complimentary tea and coffee throughout the day.

Why are only 12 members of the winning team allowed to go to Houston?

Putting aside the cost of flying 50 individuals to Houston, it’s important to realise that both the UK and International competitions rely heavily on pooling together lots of small, individual teams (from a variety backgrounds) into a single company. Given this particular ethos and the comparable sizes of the UK and International organisations, sending a full UK company to Houston is impossible. Asking students to choose their own representatives is an important part of the industry experience and is usually done with a great deal of maturity and a minimum of disagreement – even though some students will obviously be disappointed. Nine of the 12 students are selected by a blind vote, the additional three are selected based on the recommendations of the company’s CEOs and other volunteers to ensure the team is well balanced.

Can supervising adults see the final RFP in advance?

No. The RFP is delivered by a special courier and is not available until the day of the competition.

Does the International Competition use the same RFP as the UK Competition?

No. The international RFP will be of a similar scope and format to that used at the UK competition but will detail the requirements of an entirely different type of space settlement.

How much does it cost to compete in the international competition?

Flight, transport to and from the airport, food and accommodation (on days of the competition only) are provided by the competition organisers and their sponsors. The exact travel dates are negotiable, most teams arrive in Houston a couple of days before the competition begins to allow some time for sight-seeing, and leave immediately after its conclusion. Food and accommodation for any additional days is the responsibility of the participants, as is travel insurance and US travel (ESTA) authorisation.