Bede's Physicists Compete at UK Space Design Competition National Finals

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On Friday 16 March, a team of Bede’s pupils set off to Imperial College London to compete in the national finals of the UK Space Design Competition.

This was an arduous, yet rewarding weekend, spent working with teams from three other schools to design a settlement suitable for 14,000 people to live in the L4 orbital in cis-lunar space - proposed to be completed in twenty years’ time.

After arriving in London, where we would all be staying (but not sleeping - more on this later) in a hotel 30 minutes away from Imperial, we went to ‘La Pappardella’, an Italian restaurant, where we gorged on pizza and pasta to prepare us for the long weekend ahead. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip and brought us closer together as a team.

The following morning, we arrived at Imperial for an early start. We got to meet the other schools we would be working with and those we were competing against. We were then handed the RFP - a hefty document with all the specific needs we had to reach with our design - and set to work. Naturally, when posed with a challenge as massive as this, we had to have a structure to our teams so that we could function at the best level. This meant that out of a group of 50 or so pupils we had to be designated into separate areas of work; human engineering, structural, operations and automations. There were positions of leadership in the team that people would run for by giving a short presentation on why they would suit the role, and one of the most inspiring parts of the trip was hearing what other pupils had already achieved at such a young age. Many had already competed in the international competitions held in the USA - and to be part of such an intelligent, innovative company was a genuine pleasure.

We then worked - and worked - with a few breaks in between to refuel on pizza and coffee, from 12pm until 10 o’clock at night. A key part of the competition is communication between the different faculties to make sure we are all working as one cohort. Getting to meet so many new people, and create something so intricate with a group of, initially, complete strangers was an experience unlike any other. After a small ABBA disco with some of the UKSDC leaders, we had to leave Imperial because they were closing for the night. We then returned to our hotels, and once again - worked. Completely filling the lobby, there were around 200 of us rushing around trying to finalise our designs. The majority of us were up until about 5am trying to produce the most professional presentation, with a couple of major frights, including some of our slides being deleted that morning. However, overcoming obstacles like these were what gave us the greatest satisfaction in the end. Then, after a quick nap, we were back at Imperial for an 8am start again.

The final day was filled with excitement. We presented our ideas and saw what other teams had created. Sadly, we did not win, however only by a hair - the judges said it was very close between us and ‘Spacebus Z’, the winning team. Anyone who has experienced the competition knows that the value of UKSDC does not lie in the winning - it lies in the friendships formed, in discovering our strengths and weaknesses and gaining an honest insight into what it is like to work as part of an engineering company. We are the generation that will lead these pursuits in the future, that will be sending our children into space, and it is undeniable how fundamental competitions like these are for inspiring the next wave of scientists.

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