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Cornish students win £12,500 in national space challenge

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Students from two Cornish schools are celebrating after picking up high profile prizes from the UK Space Agency’s SatelLife Challenge.

Now in its second year, the SatelLife Challenge aims to support the development of science, data handling and technological skills. Winners of the national challenge had the opportunity to win a share of a £50,000 prize fund and the chance to present their ideas at the UK Space Agency headquarters.

The challenge asked students to generate ideas on how satellites can be used to benefit our economy, health or the environment. The challenge was promoted locally by the Enterprise Adviser Network (EAN) a Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (CIoS LEP) funded project which aims to bridge the gap of knowledge between education and employment. EAN worked collaboratively with a wide range of space specialist organisations based in Cornwall to promote the challenge with students.

Cathrine Armour from the South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications and Dr Kat Hickey from Goonhilly Earth Station skyped each of the local schools taking part to give a Satellite 101 briefing of how satellites are currently used and to inspire the students to think out of the box.

The students then had two weeks to create their initial ideas before presenting these in front of local space specialist judging panel made up of Cathrine Armour, Kat Hickey, Peter Munro-Lott from Aerospace Cornwall and Stuart Moore from Avanti Communications.

Cathrine Armour said: “‘The students were really engaged straight away. When we were carrying out the initial presentations we had some great questions and thought that some of the initial ideas were excellent, we just did not know how excellent! Raising aspirations for young people across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is essential to their future. Achieving a first and second in their age group nationally will not only encourage their own ambitions but also inspire others.”

The results announcement confirmed that The Roseland Academy’s Ella Richards, Eleanor Champion and Maddie Harvey, all aged 13, won £5,000 for their team’s idea of an illness tracker, an app aimed at mapping and modelling the spread of infectious disease worldwide.

The top prize for best group project was awarded to the team from Truro’s Richard Lander School; Ellie Jones, 15, Jessica Knight, 15, Summer Jeffery, 14, and Emily Hadderell, 14. Their idea of ‘Surf Safe’ a wristband that uses satellite location technology data to keep sea users safe won them £7,500.

Ellie said: “It was so exciting, finding out about the competition. We had never done anything at all like this before. As students living in Cornwall, the sea has always been important to us and from the very start we knew we wanted to do something involving the beach. It was such a surprise to find out we had won and everyone was so happy when we got the email. For a long time, it didn’t seem real.

“This whole experience has been amazing; we really enjoyed having the opportunity to do something like this. It has definitely given us the confidence to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) careers moving forwards.”

David Pollard from the Enterprise Adviser Network who promoted the competition locally said: “The whole challenge has been a huge success. The Cornish space sector has worked together to enhance this competition and the hard work has paid off. The ideas generated from the students were fantastic and show that there is an appetite and ability for students locally to get involved in the space sector. It is a sector that will hopefully be a lot larger in the future with the potential of the Spaceport Cornwall bid and the LEP’s focus on space in its ‘10 Opportunities’ prospectus to government. Well done to all of the students who entered, they should be really proud of themselves.”

The South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications is based in Cornwall with the University of Exeter as the lead delivery partner.
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