Canadian Satellite Design Challenge

X-Prize and Challenge-oriented competitions seem to bring out the best for all participants – both winners and runners-up. Competition breeds both innovation and cooperation; it makes an industry and a knowledge base stronger.

In the case of the CSDC, Geocentrics and other partners and sponsors are seeding the university and college populations with the ‘starting kit’ of knowledge and expertise needed to propose new designs within a Challenge framework.

Providing software and course material at a university level is a great way to get started, but how did those students get their interest in space to begin with? It was not from the Lego satellite design challenge but generally from their own interests and pursuits. Maybe, thought there is the opportunity, early on in education, to inspire by enabling.

A satellite design team is an end result – technical, funded, dedicated -but with barriers to entry. The nature of the task is tough: hardware design, software design, understanding of math, physics, electronics, orbital dynamics and project management are not something a keen 10 or 12 year old can take on, alone or in a group. However there is an opportunity to allow him or her to design, test, build and try; online multimedia and simulation.

These tools of virtual design using game design methodolgy and parameters can engage rather than intimidate, and essentially empower the student within the game’s world. They can spent billion dollar budgets to explore Europa, or test new propulsion technologies, or build their own space exploration program. Because rough edges of reality can be removed to allow focus on key ideas and to provide a shallow, rewarding learning curve that ultimately provides more educational opportunity and depth than a textbook that is left closed.

The fact is that kids are intuitive learners, and faster ones than adults; they can get the feel of a complex problem with multiple variables more quickly than an adult and master it in ways that are core to who they are. Given the opportunity, they can learn the ‘language’ of space exploration, for example, as easily as they may pick up a new language.

The learning opportunities provided by the CSDC are incredible, but the lesson can be extended to younger audiences, who can be inspired most of all.


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