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【The Standard】A program that is out of this world

Study Tour


Educating young people for the unknown job market of the future is important. Technology is progressing rapidly, and our societies are progressing along with it. So too are the jobs that need to be done.

Education, therefore, has to be able to set up young people for an unknown future and merge strong traditions with forward thinking.

An excellent example of education doing exactly this is the Global Space Design Challenge.

This is a residential summer program held in the UK at Imperial College London, one of the top British universities. It is a very exciting course that looks toward space and the important role that it will play in the future of human life.

Held over two weeks, this space, business and engineering course brings together high-achieving students from around the world and puts them in touch with experts from industry and academia.

Course director Randall Perry said: “The Global Space Design Challenge is a unique educational experience that has evolved from the highly successful space design competitions that take place worldwide.”

The course culminates in a two-day challenge in which students work as a team to design a space settlement. This simulates both the joys and the challenges of working in a large industrial company.

The winning team also gets the opportunity to compete in a further challenge held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Yasmin Sarwar is the chief education officer at Oxford International College and has been part of this program for the last seven years.

She told me: “As a teacher, I love this program so much and wish it had been available when I was growing up. My students have really enjoyed it.”

So what does she think makes this course so beneficial and popular? “It is all about beyond-the-classroom thinking – using higher-order thinking skills and solving problems. You can’t just rely on your textbook or on information from the internet here. You have to use your imagination and creativity. It enhances every order of complex thinking skills. This is especially important for those international students who have come out of an education system that only really emphasizes very rigid learning. It gives them real-life exposure to what it’s going to take to succeed in industry.”

This course is not just for students who are interested in space and industry.

This is a great experience for any student to go through because it develops their confidence as a person.

Sarwar said: “Coming out of their comfort zone teaches students resilience and how to deal with pressure. They tell me things like: ‘When we first came into the process, we didn’t think we could achieve it; it was surreal and beyond our capabilities.’ But after going through the two weeks, they come out feeling like they can move mountains. It’s exciting, challenging and gets students comfortable with the idea that it’s okay to explore unknown territory, to approach something that you just can’t imagine at the beginning.”

Another benefit of this course is that it is very helpful when it comes to university applications.

Sarwar said: “Students get to talk about this course in their interviews. Over the years, I’ve seen how it has helped my students when they apply. Lots of them have gone for competitive careers in areas such as law, medicine and engineering and they succeed in getting through to top British universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College, University College London and the London School of Economics.

“I’m not saying that this is the only thing that got them through, but it certainly has given them an edge over the other candidates.”