The ESA Academy’s Gravity-Related Experiments Training Week 2019 has concluded
From the 28th of January to the 1st of February 2019, 29 University students participating to the Spin, Drop, Orbit and Fly Your Thesis! 2019 programmes met at ESA’s ESEC-Galaxia in Belgium for the ESA Academy’s Gravity-Related Experiments Training Week 2019.
These students, selected at the end of 2018 for ESA Academy’s hands-on Experiment programmes, were provided with elaborate workshops and lectures in order to prepare them for the year ahead. During this week, the students got to know the other teams and their experiments a bit better and learned why so many various research fields require altered gravity in order to conduct ground breaking science.
For most students, participating in a hands-on gravity-related project offers them a first encounter to a large project involving many stakeholders and external partners who add to the pressure of realizing a functional experiment at the end of the year. As such, topics such as project and risk management, finances, documentation, communication and outreach were discussed in great length. Especially in times of pressure and stress, these aspects are often overlooked while they are crucial for good project completion.
'I liked the workshops a lot and I had the feeling that I not only have a better overview now - about risk management, system engineering, communication and outreach - but that I can also approach future major projects more confidently.'– said a student from Fly Your Thesis! 2019 Grain Power 3D-Printing team.
The development of an experiment set-up, for parabolic flight, drop tower, centrifuge or ISS, requires at least basic engineering knowledge. Hence, interactive workshops on system engineering, 3D design and automation were delivered in order to help the students further develop their skills. The aim of the system engineering workshop was to provide the students with enough knowledge on setting requirements to their experiments in accordance with ECSS standards, concepts that most students encountered for the first time last week but are at the heart of all space-related projects. However, as most students were already quite familiar with the Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, the CAD workshop was tailored to the student’s needs in order to provide valuable in-depth knowledge on some advanced 3D design skills and techniques. In parallel to this workshop, the automation workshop provided both a basic and more advanced training on how to implement automation techniques in experiments, as for some platforms such as the drop tower it is not possible to manually operate the experiments.
To help the students even further in the preparation of their experiment set-up and procedure, engineers who work on the Drop Tower operated by ZARM in Bremen (Germany), the parabolic flights managed by Novespace in Bordeaux (France), ESA’s Large Diameter Centrifuge in Noordwijk (The Netherlands) and the IceCubes Facility developed by Space Applications Services in the International Space Station (ISS) came over to individually meet the student teams. These “Meet the experts” sessions were especially highly valued by the students as they got to meet the engineers they will be working with for the next year. Teams discussed their experiment in detail with them and received answers to all their questions.
Besides providing basic skills and knowledge to the students, ESA’s Education Office also aims to broaden the students’ view on all types of science that can be conducted in altered gravity. Hence, ESA specialists were invited over to give various lectures on gravity-related research in human physiology, life and physical sciences. Additionally, former students who had previously participated in the ESA Academy’s hand-on Experiment programmes came over to share their experience and transmit their advice to the new students. At the end of the week, ESA Astronaut Reinhold Ewald also gave an inspiring lecture on Human Space Flight and Exploration.
‘We loved hearing about previous experiences and getting advice from students having taken part in the program last year. We equally, loved the wide range of topics covered from the technical lectures to the outreach activities.’– said a student from Fly Your Thesis! 2019 PHP-Cubed team.
‘The Gravity-Related Experiments Training Week was both a great opportunity for our experiment and a unique experience for our team. From gaining the insights of experts when discussing our campaign with them to speaking to other campaigns and building links with them, every moment had something to offer. The presented workshops also provided invaluable information on topics from automation to social media outreach, making for an exhausting but enjoyable week.’– said a student from Drop Your Thesis! 2019 Bubbles team.
Thus, another Training Week concludes at ESA Academy’s Training and Learning Facility. ESA’s Education Office and the engineers from the various platforms will continue to follow these student teams throughout the entire process of designing, building, testing and conducting their gravity-related experiment, and are convinced that this experience will give all students the confidence they need in order to move further in the world of micro- and hypergravity.