Monday, October 22, 2012

CSA Grants Students Big Opportunities at IAC

     By Farnaz Ghadaki

Ever since 2004, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has been part of a program called the International Space Education Board (ISEB) through which it has been organizing a student program in collaboration with other space agencies as part of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). To date, CSA has subsidized a total of 209 Canadian students to attend and participate in IAC, an annual conference organized by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF).

Students attending the Human Space Exploration panel session at the International Student Zone at the IAC2012 in Naples, Italy. Photo courtesy of CSA.

This year, the IAC2012 was held in Naples, Italy, from Oct 1st - 5th and attracted a record-breaking 4,000 attendees, about a third of which consisted of students and young professionals. The ISEB member agencies sponsored 80 undergraduate and graduate students to attend IAC2012, 19 of whom were given grants by the CSA. These 19 Canadian students were selected among 39 applicants, and represented about a dozen universities.

ISEB’s purpose, according to the IAF website, is “a twofold objective of (1) increasing science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] literacy achievement in connection with space and, (2) supporting the future workforce needs of space programmes.”

ISEB, was founded in 2005 as a voluntary membership board by the CSA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA). Its membership was expanded to include the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) in 2006, Australia’s Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) in 2009, plus the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) in 2012.

Leadership of the ISEB is on an annual rotating basis to a new member, and this year Canada led the program with Marilyn Steinberg (CSA Academic Development) as Chair.

The 80 students funded by the International Space Education Board to attend the IAC benefit from the opportunity to present and defend their research on a global stage as well as learn from and develop collaborations with seasoned academic, industrial and government representatives as well as their peers”, commented Steinberg.

The benefits to students were well reflected in the rich, and, as Dr. Steve MacLean put it, “outstanding student development programme”, which included orientation activities, Heads of Agency Q & A, and several Panel Sessions on topics such as Human Exploration and Space Applications.

Four of the 25 students who were involved with the Outreach Presentation at IAC2012: Marianne Mader, Canada; Stephen Indyk, USA; Marc Costa Sitjà, Spain; Jack Yeh, Australia

Each of the 19 Canadian students presented a talk (or more in a few cases) at IAC, spanning 20 technical sessions and variety of topics including space life sciences, microgravity, space exploration, space debris, human space endeavours, space operations, astrodynamics, materials and structures, space systems, space education and outreach, and business innovation.

The students had a lot of interesting things to share including some of the latest research being done at Canadian universities.

Laura Drudi.
For example, Laura Drudi of McGill University researched women’s health issues in spaceflight and concluded that more understanding of sex-based differences is required, especially as commercial spaceflight opportunities become available.

Melissa Battler of the University of Western Ontario (UWO) presented analysis and lessons learned from analogue lunar missions led by UWO, in evaluating communication protocols between mission control and astronauts. She concluded that a new communication protocol seems to be most effective and efficient for scientific investigation, but needs further research.

Matthew Cross from Carleton University presented a novel approach to regolith parameter extraction, using the Canadian micro rover, Kapvic and an innovative artificial neural network approach which may have useful applications with the Opportunity rover and in unsupervised learning.

Another example of student talks involved the University of Alberta High-Altitude Balloon (UA-HAB) project, presented by Cory Hodgson. This project, which demonstrated a low-cost suborbital platform, involved students designing, manufacturing, testing and launching a payload on-board NASA’s High-Altitude Student Platform (HASP) which was launched in September 2011.

Aaron Persad.
CSA also organized a networking breakfast, which the students found extremely beneficial. “I think the most important student IAC event was the CSA breakfast”, commented Aaron Persad from the University of Toronto, who also added “I believe Marilyn Steinberg and her team did a great job this year of making sure students networked with space leaders.”

Another ISEB activity was having 25 of the ISEB-sponsored students present their perspectives on how to improve outreach activities with the Heads of Education during IAC2012. "The ISEB outreach presentation was a wonderful opportunity to gain an international perspective on space education and outreach,” stated Marianne Mader of the University of Western Ontario. “This experience was one of my major highlights of the IAC conference,” added Mader.

The CSA, and other members of the ISEB have been providing great opportunities for students over the past seven years, and hope to continue their support for many more students in the years to come, including in 2014 when the International Astronautical Congress will be held in Toronto, Canada.

1 comment:

  1. Glad the IAC ISZ is still going strong with continued CSA involvement - provided me opportunities to support my space research and career. Fantastic ways for students to share their work and learn from others around the globe!


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