Twelve young people recently enjoyed a day at Leicester’s award-winning National Space Centre, celebrating their achievements as part of the Inspiration Rover educational out-reach project.
Led by mature student Henry Bennett from the University of Derby with support from fellow undergraduates, academics and alumni, the six-week project saw the young people help to develop a scale model of the Mars Science Laboratory Rover, using a design from NASA Jet Propulsion Labs.
The project was designed to help the participants build up their confidence and engage with practical engineering work.
All the youngsters involved are currently supported by Derbyshire County Council’s Children’s Services, and many of them have had challenges in (or had to leave) mainstream education.
Young people aged 11-14 were invited to apply to take part in the project and the selected 12 were each partnered with an engineering student.
Working intensively alongside engineers and university students, the youngsters learnt transferable engineering and employability skills, including how to work as part of a team.
After learning about CAD, 3-D printing and electronics, they worked with the university team to assemble a scale model of the Mars Rover.
During their day at the National Space Centre (www.nationalspaceacademy.org
), the young people met Suzie Imber, co-investigator on the Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer instrument on board the BepiColombo spacecraft currently heading to Mercury (and winner of the BBC programme Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?).
After her presentation, the young people saw the completed Mars Rover replica for the first time.
Kierann Shah, general manager of the National Space Academy, said: “I was really impressed by this project.
“It can be a real challenge for young people to see a pathway for themselves if they don’t fit the traditional route through school, so helping them to build their confidence and develop their skills is key. Engineering is a great context in which to do this.”