Last week over 120 students, young professionals, lecturers and teachers gathered at the University of Leicester’s Stamford Court for the third edition of the Symposium on Space Educational Activities. The three-day event was a whirlwind of learning and sharing, with presentations, round table discussions, demonstrations and visits, all on the topic of Space Educational Activities.
The week kicked-off with welcome speeches, and an introduction to the organisers and main sponsors; The University of Leicester, ESA's Education Office, UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS), The National Space Centre (UK), and the UK Space Agency (UKSA), before diving straight into the presentations.
The varied presentation sessions, chaired predominantly by passionate students or young professionals, included topics such as ‘The Educator’s Perspective’, ‘Diversity and Widening Participation’ and ‘Scientific Results from Student Projects’. The dual nature of the conference, including both educators and students, allowed both parties to learn from one another, both understanding what is available for them and what the experiences of the others are.
The first day concluded with ‘flash talks’ for the poster presenters and then an exciting science-based reception, with live demonstrations and a visit to the University’s teaching observatories.
The second day of the event began with a keynote speech from an ESA Postdoctoral research fellow, Dr. Maggie Lieu, presenting her experience in the space industry, before moving into the day’s sessions. This day also brought a lively and informative round table discussion on equality & diversity in the space sector. In the evening, a coach brought all the conference delegates to the University’s main campus for an informative and enthralling lecture by TV presenter Dallas Campbell, who explored the history of spacesuits (and even brought along his own copy of the A7L Apollo era spacesuit!).
The final day arrived quickly, starting with an inspiring lecture from Leicester’s own Dr. Suzie Imber, winner of the UK TV show Astronauts, Do You Have What it Takes? and who worked on instruments now on their way to Mercury aboard BepiColombo, before the day continued with another flurry of stimulating and informative lectures.
The conference was concluded with a special dinner, held at the National Space Centre, where attendees enjoyed a meal and got a chance to explore the museum, seeing such fascinations as a piece of real moon rock, flight spares of Soyuz spacecraft and numerous educational displays. The evening ended with a visit to the planetarium and showing of ‘CapCom GO!’, a visual exploration of the Apollo missions, before final thanks and best paper presentations.
Throughout all three days ESA Education Office projects and programmes were well represented, with students (and now young professionals) presenting their experiences on REXUS/BEXUS, Fly a Rocket!, Fly Your Satellite! and Orbit Your Thesis!
Alondra, a Fly a Rocket! Student, said of the event:
“I have learnt a lot over the last few days, and met many fantastic people. I especially enjoyed talking to students starting rocketry groups in Spain and all over Europe. Hopefully we'll be able to build new things as a result!”
The Symposium on Space Educational Activities is a recurring event, started in 2015 at the University of Padua, Italy and repeated in 2017 at Budapest’s University of Technology and Economics. The ESA Education Office released a call in 2018 for the 3rd Symposium Host and The University of Leicester was selected. The ESA Education Office plans to release a call for the applications to host the 4th Symposium in due course.