Imagine dropping your experiment and watching helplessly as it falls 120 metres to the floor below. Accident? Disaster? Not at all. This is ESA’s Drop Your Thesis! programme and it is all in the name of science.
For the precious seconds it takes for the experiment to fall that distance, the experiment experiences ‘microgravity’ similar to the perpetual free fall of being in orbit. If the experiment can collect data quickly, then dropping it in a specialist facility is a much cheaper option than launching it into space.
The Drop Your Thesis! programme is run by ESA Education Office. ESA is looking to sponsor teams of 4 (or more) university students from ESA member states* who have an experiment in mind that requires microgravity. ESA strongly believes in diversity and equal opportunities in the workplace. Student applying to this call should also strive to implement these principles when forming their teams. The proposals shall also clarify how the student teams intend to cope with a possible turn-over, in order to replace team members who might decide to leave the project.
Details of how to apply can be found on this website but the key step is to showcase the scientific and/or technological objectives of the project. In other words, what the teams intend to investigate and why. Emphasis should also be placed on the technical details that explain how the experiment will be implemented.
STATUS: The call for proposals is OPEN.
DEADLINE: 4 November 2018 23:59 CET.
The chosen experiments will be conducted in October 2019 at the 146m high ZARM Drop Tower Facility in Bremen, Germany. This is one of the most sophisticated research centres of its kind in Europe, and experts from the facility and from ESA will work closely with the selected teams to develop the experiments. ESA will also fund part of the team’s travel, accommodation and some hardware costs.
Previous Drop Your Thesis! teams have included the GrapheneX team from TU Delft University in The Netherlands and The Ferros team from University of Seville, Spain and TU Delft. The former aimed to investigate the possibility of using graphene as the main constituent for future solar sails, the latter aimed to deepen the understanding of ferrofluids behaviour in microgravity.
“This was the most memorable experience I have had while doing science. It was a very gratifying extraordinary experience, that we could achieve in a fun and relaxing professional environment,” said Santiago Cartamil Bueno, team leader of the GrapheneX team.
All are designed to not only provide valuable experimental results but also to give students the experience of working in a professional project environment. This allows them to build their CVs and their professional network, fostering a good start to careers in Europe’s space industry.
'The Drop Your Thesis! programme offers a full package experience for the student teams. Tasks such as financial budgeting, risk assessments, experiment automation, communication with stakeholders and reporting, all equip the students with critical knowledge on how to manage a project at all levels for their impending careers,' says Nigel Savage, programme coordinator for Drop Your Thesis!
For your chance to participate in the programme, visit ‘how to apply’ online. For further information, please contact dropyourthesis @ esa.int.