Chronicle of a special conference opportunity for students: IAC 2017
One of ESA Education’s most prestigious annual conference sponsorships was recently awarded to 6 university students to attend the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which ran from 25 September – 29 September 2017 in Adelaide, Australia.
The sponsored students, coming from six ESA Member and Associate Member States, were not only offered the chance to present their individual research in technical sessions at the congress, but also the opportunity to take part in the IAC Student Participation Programme, entirely dedicated to them and organised by the International Space Education Board (ISEB).
The ISEB Student Participation Programme is designed to supplement and enrich students’ experience at the congress, providing the opportunity to attend specialised events, presentations, panel sessions, and meetings with senior representatives, tailored to explore both educational and professional insights.
The ISEB Student Participation Programme commenced one day before the official start of the IAC congress, with a workshop on cross-cultural awareness in an international environment. In this workshop, the sponsored students from each ISEB agency met their peers from around the world and shared interesting facts about their cultures. In addition to the workshop, the students attended a meet and greet session where they were introduced to the Heads of Education from each of the ISEB agencies.
The first day of the IAC featured the highlight event of the programme, the Heads of Agency Question and Answer Session. The session, which took place in the ISEB’s International Student Zone, offered sponsored students the opportunity to ask questions to the Head of Agency from ESA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), South African National Space Agency (SANSA), and Australia’s Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC). The students’ questions covered a host of topics, from requests for detailed information about specialized national programs, to speculation about the future trajectory of space programs from an international perspective.
The second day of the congress kicked-off the first Outreach Activity session, in which the sponsored students and the VSSEC team lead a computer coding and robotics workshop for local school children. During a lunch time session between technical sessions, ISEB students enjoyed presentations from their NASA and CSA peers. In the evening the students attended a Networking Session at the South Australian Museum.
On day three of the IAC, the ESA students had the opportunity to meet with Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Schrogl, Head of the Strategy Department at ESA. In addition to attending technical and plenary sessions, sponsored students volunteered with the second Outreach Activity session, and saw lunch presentations from VSSEC and JAXA-sponsored students.
The third Outreach Activity session took place on the second-last day of the IAC, concluding the activity that reached over 600 local students throughout the week. This day’s lunch session showcased work on Hypersonic Free Flight Experiments from ESA-sponsored student, Chris Kennell, as well as KARI student presentations. Later in the day, ESA-sponsored students attended a private meeting with ESA’s Director General, Dr. Jan Woerner.
The final day of the IAC was filled with the last of the technical sessions and the IAC closing ceremony. To close-out the week, the ISEB sponsored students visited the Cleland Wildlife Park where they had the chance to see and meet some of Australia’s famous animals.
The students were highly appreciative of their experience in Adelaide. Some of their thoughts are shared below:
"Being part of the ESA-sponsored group at the 68th IAC in Adelaide was a unique and privileged experience. The activities organized throughout the week were very diverse, including Q&A sessions with heads of space agencies, and engaging in educational outreach. I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in an international environment, conducive to meeting and learning from other students. The event was undoubtedly much more enriching with the ISEB program, both professionally and personally." - Flora Mechentel, French ESA-sponsored student
“The ESA IAC scholarship allowed me to participate in one of the most exciting yearly space gatherings in the world. First and foremost, because of the scholarship, I was able to present my research to a greater audience outside of the university environment. During the conference, I was privileged enough to meet people working in the same research area; their technical presentations and the following conversations were an inspiration for the continuation of my work. As an ESA-sponsored student, we had the opportunity to meet many of the ESA staff. Through close contact with the ESA Education Office, I learned more about the REXUS/BEXUS educational programme. This led to a European student collaboration, where I am writing a proposal to fly a payload on a high-altitude balloon. - Mathijs Van de Poel, Belgian ESA-sponsored student
"My participation in the IAC 2017 was an elevating learning experience. During the IAC week, I was given the opportunity to present my research and attend sessions that kept me aware of all the latest developments in my field of research. I also met with experts and discussed my research topic, had enriching debates with researchers that share common interests, and engaged in productive and interdisciplinary dialogue. In addition, I was given the opportunity to expand my professional network and interact with representatives from the space industry, which enabled me to think about my research questions from a more real-world perspective. Furthermore, I had the chance to meet and exchange views with students and professionals from all cultures and corners of the world, which was a unique and inspiring experience. " – Maria Manoli, Greek ESA-sponsored student
The Student Participation Programme is an initiative of the International Space Education Board (ISEB). Founded in 2005, the ISEB now has nine members: the European Space Agency (ESA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the French Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), Australia’s Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC), the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the Agencia Espacial Mexicana (AEM).
The 69th International Astronautical Congress will take place from 1 – 5 October 2018 in Bremen, Germany. ESA’s student sponsorship application will be announced in the first months of 2018.