Masterclasses at the National Space Academy!

How the National Space Academy is engaging young people with space.

The National Space Centre in Leicester has been welcoming visitors to learn more about the universe and the history of space exploration since 2001, with a huge array of interactive displays, special events and the UK’s largest planetarium.

Established in 2011, the National Space Academy based at the National Space Centre aims to engage  young people with science, engineering and maths and inspire them using the context of space. By working with both industry and academia they aim to encourage more  young people to pursue a career in the space sector. They run curriculum linked masterclasses for secondary and college students, teacher training sessions and career conferences that focus on routes into the UK space industry. They also run a full time course in space engineering for pre-university students giving them both the technical knowledge and practical skills to pursue a future in the space industry.

The academy has a network of lead educators that deliver masterclasses both at the Space Centre to visiting groups and at schools across the country, covering a range of subjects such as physics, chemistry and maths all with a space theme with hands on activities and practical demonstrations to enhance students knowledge and awareness of space and inspire students at all levels and ages.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time at the National Space Centre with the National Space Academy seeing some of the work that they do at the centre. The masterclass I attended covered a range of disciplines and focused on how we see space from earth, how we get to space and what space is like when we get there.

The group activities including building and launching rockets using compressed air, looking at what designs work best and why and the maths used to determine how high they flew. They also looked at the composition of comets, building one out of dry ice.

The masterclass also looked at combustion reactions and how it is used in rocket launches, seeing a demonstration of the vast amount of chemical energy released in a reaction between oxygen and alcohol. These activities and demonstrations really engaged the students by showing exactly how the knowledge they acquire from school has really fascinating practical applications to a really exciting industry.

I also spent some time with the education team on an outreach event at RAF Syerston. The activities were themed around Mars, looking at the types of rocks we have found on Mars and what we have learnt from them, how we would take core samples on the planet and test for signs of organic matter and how we control rovers on Mars.

More information on the work that the National Space Academy do can be found here and information on visiting the National Space Centre here.


Emma Collier

Emma studies Physics with Astronomy at the University of Southampton.

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