STUDENTS of the “space generation” gathered with their teachers, past competition winners and industry professionals to launch the 2018 Australian Space Design Competition at Padua College, Kedron.
Boeing Defence Australia’s chief design engineer Stephen Hudson opened the event and told the students, “It is you who will venture farther than we ever have ventured before.”
“It is you who will first step foot on Mars,” Mr Hudson said. “You are the space generation.”
For Padua’s young men, Mr Hudson’s words sounded more like fact than science fiction.
Padua students have had great success in recent years, having won the ASDC finals in January.
From this win, six Padua students will rocket to the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida later this year to compete in the international competition.
ASDC coach and Padua College teacher Lizzy Mathai said their success came from a dedication to place ownership on the students.
“We put the ownership back on them and we gradually built it up,” Ms Mathai said.
This ownership was essential for success because of the eight-month qualification period leading up to the finals, which required their effort through holidays, exams and sports seasons.
Ms Mathai said the competition built character in the students, especially during the intense finals competition where different schools were matched up to form an inter-school team.
“When they got to the finals weekend, the twenty-four hours, it just gives them that opportunity to go through a pressure cooker and that causes them to mature,” she said.
Space Design Competition Australia board member Lachlan Young emphasised the rare opportunity the competition offered to students of all technical backgrounds.
Mr Young said the challenge for the finals in January was for the students to build a habitation safe from the dangers of space and radiation, all set in a volcanic “lava tube”.
The scenarios may sound like science fiction, but they are grounded in science and rely on the student’s engagement in science, technology, engineering and math subjects and creative thinking.
Competitors said the competition was as much about STEM as it was about teamwork and co-operation.
Florida-bound ASDC winner Christo Mohan said his team was a cohesive group and communication came easily.
“If we got any feedback, we would take it instead of acting against it,” he said.
Padua old boy Thomas Benedetti said when he started the competition the only computer skills he had was with computer games.
Each year that his team entered the competition, Mr Benedetti honed his design skills a little more and matured his leadership abilities.
By the date of the finals, he was made chief executive officer of his team.
His team was successful and he progressed to the international competition in Florida.
Although Mr Benedetti’s team didn’t win the international competition, he said, “The time I got to spend talking with students from different cultures and nations was an experience in itself.”
Many students plan to springboard their careers off the ASDC challenge.
Sebastian Waloszek, a member of the 2017 team, said he learned a lot in the competition.
“It’s great because you learn a lot but it focuses on teamwork and that helps with working in the industry,” he said.
Mr Waloszek said working with students from other schools, who they had never met, was an important industry skill.
College rector Peter Elmore said the success was a result of passionate teaching staff.
He said the teachers drove an outstanding program with 21st Century learning and “young people are connecting to that”.
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