The space dust has now settled on Ayrshire’s first ever Mission Discovery programme and what an event it was.
200 Ayrshire secondary school pupils and college students came together for the week-long space school, where they worked in teams to create space experiments.
Under the guidance of the International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET) team that included former NASA astronaut Michael Foale CBE, they challenged themselves to think creatively and work as part of a cohesive team.
Using our social media content from across the week, here’s a round-up of exactly what happened at Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2016.
With our teams in place and mentors briefed, ISSET Director Chris Barber got the show on the road at our Ayr campus!
The Mission Discovery Ayrshire participants were split into 24 teams and their first mission was to come up with team names.
We then had the first sighting of our astronaut! Michael Foale CBE, a recently retired veteran of six Space Shuttle missions and extended missions on both Mir and the International Space Station, spoke to the teams about his journeys into space and the importance of communicating with every member of the team.
Suitably inspired, the teams then got to work on designing a ‘Mission Patch’ to go with their team name. A Mission Patch is a symbol that represents a space team and is an integral part of any space mission.
The Ayrshire College Foundation had tasked primary schools across Ayrshire to design the Mission Patch for Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2016, with Mauchline Primary School’s Kaitlyn Lodge designing the pick of the bunch.
Sarah Murray, NASA’s Assistant Chief of EVA, Robotics & Crew Systems, then gave her first presentation to the group on the importance of teamwork and making sure everyone in the team has their voice heard.
In the afternoon the teams were told they would take part in an experiment called ‘The Mars Lander’. This involved using different objects to safely transport an egg from the top of the Riverside Building of the Ayr campus to the ground. Safely of course meaning that the egg was not to smash.
The groups were given an egg, a balloon, one sheet of A4 paper, a pair of scissor and a ruler to make their Mars lander. They could buy further materials but the winners would be the team who spent the least amount of dollars to land their egg, so they couldn’t be reckless.
After creating their Mars landers, there was only one thing left to do. Throw them off the top of a building.
To finish off the day, the teams were shown actual footage of Michael’s time in space as he talked about what makes a great space experiment.
Day two began with a glimpse into how Michael became an astronaut, featuring tales of living in Russia, meeting President Bill Clinton and how to have fun in space.
After hearing about Michael’s time on board the Russian Mir Space Station when an unmanned supply vessel crashed into it – described this week as the ‘worst collision in the history of space flight’ by the BBC – the groups were tasked with writing a short story about the experience.
After a few selfies with their new hero Michael Foale, the teams then heard from Dr Julie Keeble, ISSET’s Chief Scientist, who explained the criteria for experiments at the Space Station.
The teams got to work on formulating their experiment ideas – with the assistance of Michael, Julie and Sarah – before hearing Professor Steve Harridge’s presentation on an astronaut’s muscles in space, via Skype.
Halfway through the week now and the teams were hearing all about the International Space Station, where the winning experiment from this week would be carried out by real astronauts. Michael provided the guided tour as he explained where everything was stored, where the astronauts worked out and even how they slept in space. This was followed by a Q&A, surprisingly featuring plenty of questions about going to the toilet in space…
At this stage, most of the teams had proposed two or three ideas each, and this was the day that the teams decided on which of their ideas they would be pitching at the end of the week.
After working on their experiments for a while, the teams took part in the Skittles Challenge.
This experiment proved the importance that the sense of smell has on taste. Most people were unable to guess which colour of skittle they had in their mouth when they had their eyes shut and their nose pinched. Within a split second of breathing in through their nose though, everyone knew which flavour they had.
A couple of team members who guessed correctly when at their tables were invited to do it again in front of everyone – unfortunately both participants were incorrect when the pressure was on!
To conclude the day, the teams broke up into classrooms for the first time to really get to work on their experiments, before joining back together for a showing of One Direction’s Drag Me Down video. Why? Because it was filmed at the Johnson Space Center!
The final day before the presentations. But before they all went off to their classrooms, Ayrshire College’s Developing the Young Workforce Project Lead, Kirsty Taylor, spoke to the groups about Foundation Apprenticeships.
A Foundation Apprenticeship is for S5 pupils and gives them the opportunity to learn both at college and in the workplace to achieve an industry recognised vocational qualification alongside their other school subjects.
Michael then delivered his final presentation – Earth from Space!
The main part of the day was taken up by working on their experiments. They weren’t completely left to their own devices though – they could ask Michael, Julie or Sarah a question if they were stuck.
Finally, we were at presentation day.
Teams were divided into rooms where two judges would hear their initial presentations. Once each team had delivered their idea within the 8 minute time limit, the judges deliberating over which six would make it to the final stage.
Team 2 (with their experiment ‘Nanoparticles’), Team 3 (‘Enzyme reaction experiment’), Team 10 (‘Foam to treat internal bleeding’), Team 14 (‘The speed of slime mould on different materials), Team 19 (‘Flatworm freefall’), and Team 23 (‘Investigating Krill in space’) were announced as the finalists.
The final stage involved delivering their presentations in front of the judges again, but also the 23 other teams at Mission Discovery Ayrshire.
Team 10 got us underway, while Team 14 finished.
And it turned out to be a case of saving the best until last as Team 14, made up of James Abbott, Pip Abramson, Laura Borthwick, Dylan Goldie, Robyn McMahon, Jas McNee, Lynne Mitchell, Ania Myskowska, triumphed!
Their idea will go to the International Space Station within the next year.
In a final treat before the Mission Discovery Ayrshire participants finished for the week, another Skype call was made – this time to Jay Honeycutt, the former Director of the Kennedy Space Centre! Jay had been involved in the Moon landing, so obviously the students were keen to ask him questions about that.
After final presentations were made to the mentors who had helped out across the week and to the primary school pupils who had won the design competitions – that was that! Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2016 was over, with ISSET’s Chris Barber declaring it one of the best programmes they have ever been involved in!