An Amazing Experience at the International Space Settlement Design Competition

20 April 2018

Article by Joe Crowther, former Brooksbank Student and ISSDC participant

Last summer, on the 25th of July 2017, I set off on a Journey to Florida where I would be representing the EU in the International Space Settlement Design Competition or ISSDC. The purpose is to give young adults experience with what it would really be like working in the space industry. Countries from around the world took part, such as India, Argentina, China, the USA and many more. With teams being a mix of these different countries and cultures it's no easy feat to conjure a cohesive design for a space settlement, it takes a lot of hard work and co-operation to be successful, something I'm sure my successors can rise to the challenge of.

The trip lasted for seven days. The first four of which were used for team bonding. We spent time getting to know each other learning our strengths and weaknesses, going on excursions and as a result became best friends and a solid team unit. It felt as though we'd known each other for a lifetime.

At the end of the fourth day all the participant countries had arrived and it was time to elect roles within the team to help distribute the work like it would be done in a real company. The majority of the EU team were elected to be in leadership roles, in fact the head of each department were the female members of the EU team which was amazing to see! I worked for the structural department of the company whose role is to design the settlement considering appropriate construction methods, materials and costing. I was responsible for the CAD designs and the floor plans of our settlement, but this was only one small piece of the pie to make our vision a success. As I alluded to earlier, communication was the most essential skill in being effective in the competition, and anyone who takes part will come out of it a better communicator, organiser, leader and worker which are essential skills later in life, but especially in the business of space travel and engineering.

We worked tirelessly for three days (and nights) sometimes with no sleep to reach our goal. On the morning of the third day of competition we went off to the Kennedy Space Centre to present our design proposal in front of around 500 people, with a panel of scrupulous judges all of whom work in the industry and would scrutinise us on any mistakes made in our mathematics or general concepts. Fortunately, our hard work and dedication paid off as there were no major flaws in our design with only a few minor errors. When it came down to the reveal of the winner we were all very confident in our performance but at the same time being aware of some other really good designs. Unfortunately, we did not win. But we were not bitter as we knew we had done our best.

This ISSDC has been the singular most invaluable experience of my life. Not only did I develop skills which would propel me forward into greater success in the future, but I have made some of the best friends I could hope for, and none of it could have been possible without the Institute of Physics' generous contribution to the cost of this amazing opportunity. I could only hope you will be as generous to the next generation of ISSDC participants from the Brooksbank School as you were to me.

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