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Space school launches as STEM interest prepares for take-off

Science & Tech

The opening of a space school centre in South Australia and the establishment of a national space agency is giving Australian students a clearer pathway to establish careers in the industry.

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Former astronauts Andy Thomas and Pam Melroy were on hand for the official opening of the Hamilton Space School facility in Adelaide yesterday.

With the International Astronautical Congress also in Adelaide this week, the recent opening of a space industry centre in South Australia and the Federal Government’s Monday announcement it would establish a national agency, interest in space careers is at a high.

The Hamilton Secondary College centre is based on the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) in Melbourne, which was until now the only facility of its kind in Australia.

It features three main areas created for its space science programs – a simulated Martian crater and landscape, a Mission Control Room and Briefing Room.

Designed to provide a unique extra-terrestrial learning experience, students will role play space scenarios with teams taking turns to operate as astronauts collecting samples on the Mars surface, and scientists monitoring data and problem solving in the Mission Control Room.

The facility’s Martian landscape has been designed to mimic a crater on Mars, with the surface built from rocks collected from all over Australia to map out seven different geological areas. The program simulates real-life Martian explorations in the same way that NASA sends space probes to land in craters, as they are prime locations to gather samples.

The centre will be used by all of the school’s 1000 students as well as many visiting primary school from next month.

Speaking at the congress at the Adelaide Convention Centre yesterday, ISS Flight Operations Engineer and South Australian Space Ambassador Andrea Boyd said the state was developing into a hub for the space industry Down Under, which would create opportunities for young people.

“The dedicated STEM space school will take middle and high school students and train them even before they get to university in how to have skills for the space sector,” she said.

Hamilton Secondary College Principal Peta Kourbelis said the school’s teachers were committed to delivering world-class curriculum and learning experiences to encourage students to pursue STEM higher education pathways.

“By capturing the imagination and enthusiasm of students, we can foster their love for STEM through our Hamilton Space School and inspire them in their learning,” she said.

Thousands of South Australian students have been in the centre of Adelaide this week at the congress and associated education programs aimed at inspiring them to choose STEM pathways.

Deputy chair of the Space Industry Association of Australia and former program developer at the VSSEC, Naomi Mathers, said school curriculums were evolving over time as the industry began identifying their needs.

“The jobs that exist now will not look like the jobs that exist when you graduate,” she told the congress.

“The message to any student is the concept of life long learning, problem solving, of being part of teams, of critical thinking – these are all the skills that they need.”

Today is the final day of the congress with presentations by Lockheed Martin and SpaceX’s Elon Musk about their plans to send humans to Mars.

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