A team of six A Level Physics students recently took part in the prestigious Mission to Mars regional competition. The task was to design a manned mission to Mars, taking account of the overall mission objective, spacecraft design, protecting astronauts from radiation, landing on Mars, getting back and overall costing. Mission to Mars was set up by two retired senior engineers, Richard Blott and Charles Matthews, to encourage engineering in schools. Five local schools were involved and the teams gave their final presentations in The Langstone Hotel before a distinguished panel of judges including Professor Andrew Coates, head of the Planetary Science Group at University College London.
All teams gave very creative and interesting presentations and were all rewarded. The Havant team stood out for recommending propulsion based on fusion and going for a polar landing site.
Employers now are looking for much more than hard technical skills, they need imaginative engineers who can work in teams. This project gave the students the opportunity to work together and deliver a professional presentation to experts in the field. The students were also commended for handling some awkward questions at the end very well.
The students will be sharing the £500 prize money between them and perhaps more importantly will have something really worthwhile to put on their UCAS statement and to talk about when interviewed at university.
“The task set to us was one of great difficulty - Design a mission to Mars. However being that I have a great love for all things astronomical, and I’ve a great interest in physics it was a task that greatly piqued my interest. The challenge was interesting to carry out, it broadened my understanding of the aeronautical world and it gave me a more realistic insight into the workings of the space industry and its problems that are associated. It directly helped with my A Level studies in that (with relation to practical assessment write-ups) I was more prepared for carrying out conductive research and I was better able to explain myself and my ideas after having done so. This was an extremely valuable experience and I am grateful to have been a part of it.”
A Level student Liam Rose-Moran
“The research was, in my opinion, the part of the project that benefited us the most. The reading was fascinating; the research has not seemed like work at-all, though maybe the same can’t be said for the rest of the project, where we were acutely aware in many moments of clarity quite how much work goes into a space mission, and copious amounts of coffee were consumed! I’m really glad to have been able to work on this project, thank you for the opportunity. I did not expect to be designing a space mission when I started my first year at college!”
A Level student George Vernon
“The thing I loved most about the task was the freedom that we were given within the subject. My research put into perspective for me how close we are to being in a place where a mission to mars could be possible. I definitely have a newfound appreciation for this field of research and the people working in it. I would like to thank the people who created this task. It has been a unique opportunity that I have learned a lot from.”
A Level student Annie Caddick