It is often said that the UK Space Design Competition is not just a competition, but a journey. A physical journey from your school or science club to London (and maybe NASA) and a personal journey in which you will meet several exciting challenges and make dozens of new friends, both of which will serve you well in the months and years ahead. Many of our former students are still in contact with friends made at the competition, and many have mentioned their time at the competition in apllications to university.
This page summarizes the journey made by UK Space Design Competition participants in 2012.
Stage 1: The Application Stage
After the success of last year’s application procedure, the journey towards 2012 once again began with a video presentation, to be submitted to the competition’s organizers committee in November 2011. Students were asked to design a new residential unit for the Alaskol Lunar Settlement on the Moon and to pitch their design to the judges in a format very reminiscent of the competition finals. For those of you who can’t remember the request for proposal, it looked a little bit like this:
This is a request by the Foundation Society for contractors to propose the design, construction and operation of a new residential unit for the Alaskol Lunar Settlement.
The new unit must comfortably accommodate a family of 4 people consisting of 2 adults and 2 children. Essential services and utilities are provided by the main Alaskol Settlement but your design should aim to be as self-sufficient as possible. Successful contractors will pay particular attention to any radiation shielding that may be necessary for the unit and the long term effects of lunar gravity.
The video applications we received for the 2012 competition were absolutely amazing, both in terms of technical content and general presentation, and the judges had a very hard time having to choose between them. Summarizing all of the 2012 entries, the judges were particularly impressed with:
- The attention paid to scientific detail, particularly with regards to the key ideas of radiation shielding and weak lunar gravity.
- The technical quality and imagination shown in your schematics, both by those of you who had access to specialist design software and by those of you who drew your designs by hand.
- The level professionalism shown by your presenters.
- The consideration given to construction timelines and financial budgeting.
- The way in which you were able to exploit the positive aspects of living on the moon whilst, at the same time, carefully considering how you were going to deal with some of the negatives.
But as with any set of professional presentations, there was still some room for improvement and schools considering applying to future competitions might want to:
- Consider the amount of text included in your presentations. It might be tempting to dump everything you know about a particular topic on the judges, but you will have a much greater impact if you can identify the really key points of your design and then use images and pictures to make sure that these ideas are clear.
- Remember that your presentation tells a story and, as with any story, it’s important to consider how it ends. The ending will be the last part of your presentation that the judges actually see so make sure that it’s memorable!
- Consider what your video presentation team are saying. Are they adding something new to your proposal, perhaps by elaborating on good ideas, or are they essentially just repeating information that’s already on your PowerPoint slides?
Some of the successful applicants to the UK Space Design Competition 2012 have kindly agreed to make their video applications and/or PowerPoint files available online. If you would like to take a closer look at them, please click here.
Stage 2: The UK Space Design Competition Final 2012
The UK Space Design Competition 2012 welcomed a record 162 students from 19 schools to Imperial College London over the weekend of 24-25th March 2012. The company allocation was:
Vulture Aviation: Cardiff Sixth Form College, City of London Academy, Drayton Manor High School, Pate’s Grammar School, Seven Kings High School
Grumbo Aerospace: The Henrietta Barnett School, Meldrum Academy, Moreton Hall, St. Pauls, Westfield School
Rockdonnell Aerospace: Queen Elizabeth School, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, Rye St. Anthony, Wallington Grammar, Welsh Regional Winners
Dougledyne-Flechtel: Bishop’s Stortford College, Chatham Grammar School, Dartford Grammar School, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Girls’ School, Riddlesdown Collegiate, Welsh Regional Winners
The 2012 Request for Proposal asked students to design a settlement on the planet Mercury that was capable of staying on the terminator by moving with the planet’s rotation. The winning design was selected by a panel of expert judges including representatives from Imperial College London, NASA and the UK Space Agency as well as musician Jeff Wayne. The students were able to watch some of “Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds” while the judges were choosing a winner, which in the end was Dougeldyne-Flechtel. This company, led by Tom Speed of Riddlesdown Collegiate, focussed on the Request for Proposal and advanced an innovative “ice-cream-cone” settlement structure that protected residents from harmful solar flares.
As with previous competitions, CEO’s were asked to nominate one student from each company for the Dick Edwards Leadership Award:
Phoebe Griffith, Moreton Hall
Krishna Kamesh, Cardiff Sixth Form College
Nakul Khanna, Haberdasher’s Aske’s Boys School
Tom Speed, Riddlesdown
At the same time, a second award was given in 2012, sponsored by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, for exceptional scientific insight:
Millie Adams-Davies, Moreton Hall
Kamogelo Thutoetsile, Cardiff Sixth Form
Nicholas Putni, Haberdasher’s Aske’s Boys School
Dominic Tucker, Chatham Grammar School
The winners of both the Dick Edwards Award for Leadership, and the Rutherford Appleton Award for Exceptional Scientific Insight were given VIP seats at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory for a special public lecture by UK astronaut Tim Peake.
Stage 3: The 19th International Space Settlement Design Competition
Twelve students from the winning company were rewarded with a trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in America to take part in the 3-day long 19th International Space Settlement Design Competition. They were joined by students from around the world, and accompanied by the UK Space Design Competition’s Space Chair, Elizabeth Luthman, who kept the following diary of the team’s experiences…
The first day of the competition dawned warm and muggy – standard Houston weather. The International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC) takes place in the Gilruth Center next to the Johnson Space Center – a 10 minute drive from the hotels organised by Anita.
Not all of teams that come to the competition have transport to and from the Gilruth Center. Veterans of the ISSDC have refined shuttling the students to the venue to a fine art. With the first run starting a 8.20am, all of the students will be on site in time for introductions to start at 9. This year the UK team had our own transport organised, making life far less frantic.
Introductions to the competition by Dr Jack Bacon and a very sleep deprived Anita set the scene for the next 72 hours. Then it was time to meet the adult CEOs and set out the management team for the company.
Vulture Aviation 2012 is the first team in the history of the ISSDC to have two female CEOs: Amber Rist and Kavya Manyapu, both work for Boeing Houston. Several British students successfully pitched themselves for Management positions and are enjoying (!) the responsibilities and stresses that come with them.
The international competition, unlike the UKSDC, takes place over three days giving the companies a full 24 hours extra to work on their settlement. Despite this, some team members began day two of the ISSDC with little or no sleep under their belts, back at the Gilruth Center at 8.30am.
A key part of the second day of the International competition is the red team reviews on the Sunday afternoon. Each company has the chance to hold a dry run of the current state of
their pitch in front of a team of technical experts. During the presentations the panel sets out to be as (constructively) critical as possible, questioning the design decisions that have gone into the settlement. With a session before and after dinner the students can have any changes they choose to make in response to comment advised on. A sign-up sheet for the sessions is put out at lunch time and it’s first come, first serve for timing. Luckily for Vulture Aviation, the company president was the first person to spot the sheet and snagged the company first slot before diner and last slot after, leaving them the maximum possible time to update their plans.
One of the truly incredible aspects of the ISSDC is the caliber of engineering expertise available to the students for advice. At this year’s competition are people like Norm Chaffee (who started work at NASA on the Saturn V rocket in the Apollo programme) and Kauser Imtiaz (technical lead for the structural integrity of the International Space Station) to name but a small sample of the combined knowledge not only present, but excited to talk to the students about the challenges of living in space.
Day three for many of the students ran straight on from day two with only a pause for a shower and to put on a smart change of clothes. For the assorted accompanying teachers/parents/chaperones, it’s always astonishing to see how much work these groups of teenagers can produce in such a short time. Much if not all of Sunday night is spent with students piled into hotel rooms in their business sections (management, marketing, human factors, operations, automation and structures) frantically trying to put the finishing touches to their design. The companies must submit an electronic copy of their proposal on a usb key and a printed copy to a competition official at 7.30 on the Monday morning.
The final presentations are always nerve-wracking. The company has 35 minutes in which to present 50 slides and convince the judges that their design not only fulfils the requirements,
but will provide the best living experience for the 12,000 humans heading to Venus to live and work on this station. Figuring out which key pieces of information out of the hours and hours of calculation, deliberation and discussion should fit into this is extremely challenging. After the 35 minutes (which are made a whole lot more nerve-wracking by Antia waving cards with a countdown of the remaining time at the presenters at rapidly decreasing intervals) the judging panel has 10 minutes in which to question the team and tease out the reasons for various decisions.
Between the end of the last presentation at 12.30 and 5pm, the judges hide themselves away to review the proposals and craft their decision. During this time, the students get to explore Space Center Houston (tickets kindly provided by Anita). Part museum, part activity center here the students can try flight simulators, learn about the history of the space programme and take some fascinating tours of the Johnson Space Center that take in things like astronaut training facilities and the Apollo 18 rocket.