What to Expect
The UKSDC year starts with regional/digital qualifying events in late autumn, which run alongside a video competition that must be submitted by mid-December. 250 competitors, including the winning teams from each regional heat and 4 to 6 teams from the video competition, then go forward to the National Finals held at Imperial College London. There are ongoing Galactic Challenges for younger students throughout the year.
Regional Competitions/Digital Heats
Regional Competitions take place on Saturdays, with registration at 8:30 am. The students will attend briefings on different aspects of engineering and management techniques, and will then commence their designs in their designated companies. Each company will be mentored by adult CEO’s with extensive competition 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 SDC is a student led project, and whilst the CEO will facilitate the students in their in their quest to solve problems, they will not provide answers. Structuring the company, appointing its leaders, and answering the RFP is the responsibility of the students. Each department attends a dedicated briefing session where they will learn more about their unique roles, and a representative of the Foundation Society will give the RFP to the company president. This document lists all of the requirements that the design must satisfy.
Final Presentations will have to be submitted at around 5pm. After submission, the companies will sequentially give their presentations to the judges, with 15-20 minutes of presentation time and 5 minutes of question time per company. The judges will then go off to deliberate, whilst (at in person competitions) students are provided with pizza! Once the judges return, the winner will be announced and the regional day will be finished (normally by 9.30 pm).
The video competition is run over a period of roughly threes months with the six point RFP being released in early November. Students are not combined into companies for this competition, but instead compete in school or science club groups to produce a 3-5 minute video that answers the RFP. They can spend as much time as they like on this competition, and many students choose to enter it alongside the regional competition to maximise their chances of getting through to the National Finals.
The Space Design Competition National Finals take place over two days at Imperial College London (South Kensington Campus). Registration for the 250 finalists begins at the main entrance at 08:30 on Saturday. Following a similar format to the regionals, the students are divided into 5 different companies, each consisting of around 50 students, consisting of four to six teams.
Company headquarters rooms at Imperial College London are available until 22:00 when the students depart for their overnight accommodation.
Accommodation is provided by the Space Science & Engineering Foundation on Saturday night. Accommodation on the Friday night is arranged for students traveling from further away. Contact Jenny Lyons if you require Friday accommodation. Catering is provided by the Space Science & Engineering Foundation.
Final designs must be submitted, with up to 50 power point slides, by the 8:00 am Sunday morning. Judging begins at 9:00 am as each company gives a 30-minute presentation on their design followed by 10 minutes of judges’ questions. The winners are announced in the afternoon and all competition activities will be concluded by 17:00.
The winning company at UK final is awarded twelve places at The International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC), held at a NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This typically takes place during the last weekend of July or the first weekend in August, and the vast majority of costs are paid for by the SSEF.
The students in the winning company vote for team members to represent their company at the ISSDC. The results of the voting are combined with the suggestions of the company’s CEOs to produce the final list of 12 plus 4 reserves 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.
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 with different resources available to draw upon. The competition starts on Friday evening and presentations to the judges are made on Monday.