A group of Princess Margaret Secondary School students is working with SFU Surrey to win NASA’s International Space Settlement Design Competition.

Out-of-this-world bid by Surrey space students

Sponsors sought for NASA Texas trip for Princess Margaret Secondary teens.

Reminiscent of Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek, Bhupinder Rathore, a third-year Simon Fraser University computer engineering student, is engaging his crew of space colony designers in an out-of-this-world experience.

They are working to raise the $10,000 needed for flights and accommodation to attend an elite, invitation-only competition at the NASA Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas from Aug. 2-5. They hope to leave July 30.

For the third consecutive year, Rathore is grooming a group of 15- to 19-year-olds at Princess Margaret Secondary in Surrey for the finals in the annual International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC).

The competition invites high school students who are mentored by teachers (and in this case, Rathore) to design a space colony for 10,000-plus people, according to set specifications.

Student teams submit 40-page, online entries, which are assessed by aerospace industry engineers and managers allied with the contest’s sponsors, including NASA and the Boeing Company.

ISSDC organizers select eight teams as finalists that compete in a live competition to design another colony at the NASA centre. Four more teams, deemed to have submitted stellar first-round entries, are also invited to witness the final competition.

The competing teams are broken up to create new teams comprised of students from different countries, who are coached by a mentor attached to one of the original teams.

The new teams engage in 43 hours of non-stop research to design their final space colonial submissions, which are assessed by ISSDC organizers and NASA astronauts and space engineers.

The Internet is out of bounds as a source of information for the final teams. They must rely on their mentors, NASA’s library, and a panel of astronauts and aerospace engineers as resources to design and present their colonies.

The winning team takes home an Oscar-type trophy embedded with a genuine meteorite and an impressive list of NASA astronauts and aerospace engineers as résumé references.

Rathore, who has received a teaching award from NASA, will mentor his protégés along with students from India, Florida, Wales and Texas.

“I am feeling very confident about our chances this year,” says Rathore. “For the last two years, all my team members were new. The stress and competition levels of the finals are something they had never experienced before. This year I have five members who have already experienced those pressures and are more prepared than last year.”

If Rathore and his team ride to victory, it will be the first win for Canadians. Rathore and his original Princess Margaret Secondary team were the first Canadians to compete in the competition.

Prospective team sponsors wishing to help with travel costs can send cheques payable to Princess Margaret Secondary School, re: Texas trip, 12870 72 Ave., Surrey, B.C., V3W 2M9.

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