New video captures the impact of the PrimarySpace pilot event in 2018

On Wednesday 12 September 2018, over 800 primary school children from Brighton and Eastbourne took over the University of Sussex campus for a rare opportunity to see a prototype of the Mars Rover in action. The event is the brainchild of Katherine Courtney, former CEO of the UK Space Agency and founder of PrimarySpace, a new charity aiming to engage primary school children and teachers with careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) through the wonders of space.

always possible was appointed the strategic evaluators, and devised ways to capture insight and learning at the event – including interactive reflection boards on the day, pre-event resources for teachers, data analysis and a detailed evaluation report.

As well as having a chance to see a demonstration of Bruno, the Ground Demonstration Model of the ExoMars Rover, in action, the schoolchildren received a session on future space careers, run by Courtney, with jobs in space traffic control, space tourism, space habitat management, space mining, space construction, space junk removal, space rescue, and even space farming, all possible as careers to aspire to for today’s primary school children.

The aim of the event was to engage, enthuse and open the eyes of attending children and teachers to the possibilities of careers in STEM and the space industry. Trainee teachers from the University of Sussex Education department, overseen by experienced teachers including Sussex Teaching Fellow Claire Watts, ran sessions with the attending children exploring what has inspired them during the day and what they’d like to be when they grow up.

The event was the inaugural pilot event for PrimarySpace, primarily funded by the UK Space Agency, with additional funds from the University of Sussex’s widening participation team and private sources. The charity is currently seeking funding to roll out a programme of events based on the Sussex pilot model with universities across the UK.

Courtney, who has a background in helping technology start-ups get off the ground, has also established SpaceSouth, a programme which aims to link the thriving South coast digital scene with the burgeoning UK space industry.

Courtney says: “Most young children enjoy learning about STEM, but a significant majority, especially girls, choose not to continue with these studies at secondary school. Part of the reason is that they can’t imagine themselves doing a future STEM-related job.

“Space has the power to capture the imagination of children and adults alike. PrimarySpace’s mission is to plant a seed of STEM awareness and aspiration that will stay with children as they grow.

“The UK Space sector employs some 40,000 people today and will need to double or triple that number over the next 10-20 years. By giving large numbers of primary school children, teachers and trainee teachers an unforgettable experience – meeting people who do space work and learning about space science and technology – we want to help inspire children to become the future scientists, engineers, technologists and space industry workers who will ensure the UK remains one of the leading spacefaring nations in the world.”

Teaching Fellow at Sussex, Claire Watts says: “The PrimarySpace event provides our teacher trainees with an excellent opportunity to explore how to build on what the children see, hear and do during the day, helping the children to develop their ideas and aspirations for the future. This shows the power of education and we hope that ‘making a difference’ to children’s lives becomes an aspiration of the trainees throughout their teaching careers.”

Attending children got a chance to meet representatives from leading UK space businesses working with: robots discovering things that have never been discovered before; noisy rockets that will be sending future spacecraft into space; satellite technology to change children’s education in Africa. Demonstrations and presentations will be run on the day by:

  • Airbus Defence and Space – demonstrating the Mars Rover robotic functions, explaining how it will be gathering information about Mars.
  • Reaction Engines– explaining about their development of the SABRE air-breathing rocket engine and how that will change space transport and travel in the future.
  • Avanti Communications– screening a video of how they have connected village primary schools in Africa to the internet using satellites, so they can do the same type of online learning as UK students.