Mercury rising: two boys head for NASA after success at space competition finals

Mercury rising: two boys head for NASA after success at space competition finals

Two QE sixth-formers have been selected to be part of a European Union team at the international finals of the UK’s Space Design Competition. Aadil Kara and Brian Kong were among 12 boys who organised themselves to form a QE team.

The team won their regional heat with their design for a mining colony on Mercury in October. Then, at the national finals at Imperial College, London, the QE contingent joined up with pupils from other schools to form a 45-strong fictional company, one of five competing at the event.

Although their company did not win, Aadil and Brian were chosen as members of an EU team made up of three participants from each of the four runner-up teams at the UK finals. They will therefore take part in the international climax of the competition at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in July.

Year 13 pupil Aadil, who was team president at the regional finals and vice-president of marketing & sales at the national event, said: “I am tremendously excited to be going to NASA – and that excitement is shared by my parents, who are of the generation that grew up in the heyday of space exploration.”

Another QE participant, Harikesan Baskaran, also of Year 13, added: “This competition was great fun. It was really satisfying to have the opportunity to tackle large-scale challenges free from the constraints imposed by the classroom curriculum.”

In the regional heat, the brief to design the mining colony specified that it should house 200 permanent residents beneath the surface of the Solar System’s innermost planet. For the national finals, the focus remained on Mercury, but the brief was to design a space settlement for 10,000 residents on the surface, with this whole settlement moving to avoid extremes of temperature by staying in line with the ‘terminator’, the line between night and day. Both scenarios were set in the year 2087.

Having produced a proposal, each company had to ‘pitch’ to win the contract for the construction project.

The competition thus involved not only applying the principles of physics to the space environment, but also consideration of human factors, such as health and recreation. In addition to working on engineering disciplines, participants took on organisational and leadership roles in their teams and sub-teams. Overall, the competition required a combination of creativity, teamwork & collaboration and applied knowledge.

Besides Aadil, Harikesan and Brian (who was vice president of marketing & sales at the regional finals), the QE participants were: Bushry Basheer (at the regionals only); Sam Bayney (Bushry’s replacement in the nationals); Lucas Duke; Agrim Manchanda; Milun Nair, Akshay Narayan; Aran Patel; Neelesh Ravichandran (vice-president of engineering at the regionals); Kavi Shah and Yuta Tsuchiya. All are in Year 13 except Milun, a Year 12 pupil.