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Space Campers and their parents at the final awards ceremony

 

While Canberrans were enjoying the October long weekend, going down to the coast or potentially enjoying the two back to back fairytale grand finals, over forty enthusiastic kids from Canberra and surrounding regions were learning more about the Universe we live in at Canberra’s very first Space Camp.

Space Camp, organised by YMCA and Inspiring Australia, was designed to get kids from grades 6 – 9 engaged with Space-related organisations for an action packed long weekend full of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The long term goal of the inaugural event is to get kids interested in pursuing careers in STEM through the Space industry flourishing in the ACT region.

The program may have already started to fulfil its long term goals engaging students with STEM and the local space industry; Year 8 student Elizabeth Drew, “Loved learning a whole  bunch of new things including robotics and seeing what’s around Canberra space related”. Elizabeth could also see herself in science after school, “doing something space related after doing this camp.”

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Space Campers tinkering at Questacon where they designed their own Mars Rover landing modules

Students had an action packed long weekend learning everything from programming basics, to drone flying and even building their own Mars rovers. Year 7 student Mitchell Schmidt said he was excited to come to Space Camp as he was “interested in meeting the astronaut and learning about drones and robotics” as he wants to go into engineering or robotics after school.

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Skyping former NASA astronaut, now Boeing employee, Chris Ferguson

The success of the event could also be attributed to the dozen University students, from a variety of academic backgrounds, who also gave up their long weekend to help organisers keep the kids engaged and to assist in the activities across the four day event.

Volunteer Annabelle Nshuti, who is studying a Bachelor of Science at ANU, has loved Space since she was in grade one and wished they had a program like this when she was in school. Annabelle loved, ” the UNSW event where we had to help plan a mission to Mars! I absolutely loved the inter-activeness of camp breaking down difficult concepts.”

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The Virtual Reality of the Solar System was a massive hit with students and volunteers alike with one Space Camper exclaiming, “Virtual Reality was my favourite thing  – in virtual reality you got to walk inside the Sun and touch Planets! I even compared Mt Everest and Empire State building on Mars as well as the Mars Grand Canyon compared to ours – it’s 20 times bigger!

Man behind the Virtual Reality set-up Migara Liyanagamage from OzGuild, a local Canberran start-up, said “I’m excited about helping the kids explore the Planets and get them excited about Space – especially using new technology”.

Event organisers attributed much of the success from the engagement with sponsors and institutions around the Canberra area who enthusiastically got on board to show the students exactly how exciting Space can be – especially in Canberra.

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Sponsors included the YMCA, Boeing & Geospatial Intelligence and Defence Science and Technology Group as well as organisations that supplied their time and expertise. This includes but was not limited to Mt Stromlo Observatory, Canberra Deep Space Network, UNSW Canberra, Canberra Innovation Network, Questacon , Canberra Rocketry Group, Canberra Portable Planetarium, MSATT teaching telescope  and The Creative Element Team to help get Canberra’s next generation of scientists excited about Space.

Event organiser, Ingrid McCarthy from Inspiring Australia, was very pleased with success of the event, ” We had happy parents, excited sponsors, engaged volunteers but most importantly inspired kids! We will definitely be using the feedback from this camp to build on the success of the event for 2017!”