Ready for launch: Blackfriars wins space grant

The countdown is on as Blackfriars prepares for its very own Mars mission.

Blackfriars has won a $4000 grant from the Andy Thomas Space Foundation to participate in its Mars Program – one of only nine South Australian schools to secure the funding.

Teacher Matthew Wallace, who applied for the grant, said the funding would enable him to expand the school’s STEM offerings to include a new focus on satellites.

Teacher Matthew Wallace.

“The Andy Thomas Foundation … promotes engineering and, in particular, prepares students for careers in space,” Mr Wallace said.

“This is all about technology in space … especially around Mars and space travel. So, I come up with an idea … to get the kids to design a micro-cube satellite.

“So, they will have an electronics component, a coding component and a design component … so really integrating many aspects, from how electronics work to how a solar cell generates electricity.

“I probably wouldn’t have thought about this project, not immediately, anyway, but I thought ‘this is a good opportunity to develop something new’. I thought I could put something together that was meaningful and having this grant is outstanding.”

“I also have to give a thank you to Jak Francis, who provided valuable technical advice.”

He said given South Australia’s burgeoning space industry, it was important secondary students had an appreciation of career options in the sector.

“They always talk about the brain drain from South Australia; the really good people get poached to the eastern states or internationally,” he said.

“But if we’ve got something that’s internationally competitive and got that sort of reputation, then kids from South Australia can aspire to something local without thinking, ‘oh, I haven’t really made it unless I go and work in New York’.

“I think there’s now good opportunity for kids to aspire to a high-end career and not think they have to leave the state.”

Sarah Baker, Assistant Principal (Space, STEM and Innovation) at Hamilton Secondary College, which will support the Blackfriars program, said space represented “hope for the future”.

“It will help our country to transition to a knowledge economy and will provide exciting long-term, secure career opportunities for our young people,” Dr Baker said.

Who is Andy Thomas?

  • Andrew Thomas received a Bachelor of Engineering Degree in Mechanical Engineering, with First Class Honours, from the University of Adelaide, in 1973, and a Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, also from the University of Adelaide, in 1978.
  • After a career as a Research Scientist with Lockheed Martin in the United States, he was selected by NASA. In 1993, following a year of training, he was appointed a member of the NASA astronaut corps.
  • In May 1996, he flew his first flight in space on Endeavour.
  • In 1998, he served 130 days aboard the Russian Space Station Mir.
  • His third mission and fourth missions were on board Discovery, before retiring from NASA in February 2014.
  • He has been a leading advocate for the development of the Australian space sector.

Source: The Andy Thomas Space Foundation


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