UKSDC: Ben Reports From UK Space Science Competition Final

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Following the end of term assembly, Bede’s team for the final of the UK Space Design competition took the train from Polegate to Victoria, followed by a London bus, (only Mr Richards could come up with that one!) to the YHA, where we would be staying on the Friday night.

That evening, we enjoyed some excellent Italian cuisine to prepare them for the long two days ahead. 

On the Saturday morning, we arrived at Imperial at 8am for an early start, meeting the other schools in our company (Vulture Aviation) that we would be working with for the next two days. These included Cardiff Sixth Form College, Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School, Bristol, Omega Space Club and two individuals, James and Mark.

Following a general introductory briefing the companies retired to their work headquarters to elect a President, VP of Marketing, VP of Engineering and the four section heads. Following this, everyone chose which section they wanted to join and each section received a short but intensive training and briefing session on their chosen department. 

At around 11:30am the Request For Proposal was distributed and all the companies were allowed to begin. It was announced that teams had to create a space settlement travelling between Earth and Mars in just 80 days, capable of sustaining 7500 lives.

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In their headquarters, each section worked tirelessly to try to answer as much as we could of what seemed an impossible brief. Ben Kebbell, Dominic Pereira, Summer Brighton, Claudia Stephens and Neve Lawrence all worked in the Human section. John Moran, Daniel Belo Goncalves, Robert Liu and Henry Writer all chose the Operation section.

With the President calling regular meetings, everyone had to make sure they were on track and each section head needed to have a handle on what was going on both within their team and within the room generally.

Following a break for supper, which turned out to be pizza in something of a reprise of the previous evening, the President called a presentation run through at around 7pm. This revealed that some of the sections had not fully communicated ideas and it was clear that clarification was needed on some key areas of the design.  

At 10:30pm, Imperial was shut and everyone had to work their way back to their accommodation to continue answering the RFP and finalising the presentation. On return, the company regrouped in the main reception after stocking up on energy drinks and sugar and began to work again! This is where the UK final lived up to its reputation, presenting impossible deadlines, stressful decisions and a sleepless night.

Most got a couple of hours sleep if they were lucky before returning to Imperial in the morning for the final presentations. 

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The deadline for submitting the proposal was 8am on the Sunday morning and Vulture Aviation were the first team to present at 9am. Each presentation was 35 minutes long with 10 minutes of questions from the judges at the end.

After nearly four hours of presentations, all companies ate lunch whilst the judges deliberated on who would be crowned the winning company. 

After a long wait reflecting on the last two days, Rockdonnell was announced the winning company, unfortunately not Vulture Aviation. This however did not change the fact we all had an amazing weekend learning a vast amount from the experience and all bonding as a group better than we ever had before.

On a small scale, we all built friendships and learned in great depth about areas of science we didn't know prior to the event and about the industry of engineering, including how hard it can be to work in a group with so many people to meet a deadline.

Although our company did not win, Neve Lawrence was awarded with the Dick Edwards Award for the best student leader from Vulture, which is chosen by observers and the company CEOs.

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Following a group photo, the team split up to start the Easter break and the organisers sent out a post-event set of remarks and the following two paragraphs drawn from this sum up the event really well:

”The competition aims to be an industry simulator, giving you a taste of what real professional work is like. From my own employment in a large engineering company, I recognise many aspects of the event that capture features of real engineering work particularly well. You have all gained experience of working in teams, communicating up an organisational hierarchy, and in some cases taking on leadership roles.

“Studying the RFP has exposed you to capturing customer requirements, a very important part of any industry. Most importantly, you will all have encountered things going wrong, sometimes disastrously so! This is vital life experience; failing badly and learning lessons from it is one of the most effective ways of developing and improving yourself.

“On a more individual level, the competition will have allowed you to discover more about yourselves. Rather than finding the limits of your knowledge, you will have found out just how far it extends, and just what you are capable of learning and creating when you push yourself to extreme lengths. Some of you may have discovered leadership potential you didn’t know existed, or a passion you’ve never entertained.

“Through the challenging ordeal of staying up all night working on your designs, you will have learned how to develop a more resilient personality with an improved tolerance for stress.”

Our thanks go to Mr Richards and Dr Dawson for all their support throughout the year and we cannot recommend the experience highly enough to anyone thinking of getting involved in next year’s competition, which will begin in September.

 

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