FOUR teenagers went to the European Space Research and Technology Centre after winning a competition judged by astronaut Tim Peake.
The team of four students from University Technical College Portsmouth were awarded the visit as a prize for winning a national competition which involved pupils from all UTCs.
Competitors were given the brief to ‘devise a project that the European Space Agency would be interested in researching’.
The boys won the competition with an innovative design concept which involved harnessing the power of nuclear fusion to power a space craft.
Team member, Ethan Wilson, 15, said: ‘We had done a bit about nuclear fusion in our science lessons and the concept of using the energy to power a space craft was a unique idea which has not yet been used.’
Fellow competitor, Dewald Roos, also 15, added: ‘We were really surprised when they made the announcement as we definitely didn’t think we would win. We have since learned that the two main things the ESA are interested in is the affects of radiation in space and propulsion – which obviously links in with our idea.’
Three teams were selected to compete at the final in London in which they had to present their designs to astronaut Tim Peake.
‘We were questioned by Tim Peake about our designs and idea. It was really nerve racking as he asked some challenging questions,’ explained Elliot Gilkes-Strong, 15.
Unbeknown to the boys at time was the fact that the idea of nuclear fusion as a mechanism for propulsion had begun to be investigated by scientists at the research centre.
Andrei Mosora, 16, explained: ‘Tim Peake said that the fact we had picked a design which had not yet been implemented but scientists had started to investigate was one of the reasons he selected us as winners.’
The competition entries from students were coordinated by head of science, Damien Edmondson.
‘The students had to include models and a 3D printed layout of their design. The students did everything themselves. I am incredibly proud of them and really pleased they have embodied the vision and value of the college in their work,’ explained Mr Edmondson.
Principal Ciaran O’Dowda added: ‘I am proud of what they have achieved. The idea came from the students on something which is very challenging and Tim Peake was obviously impressed with their work.’
Whilst visiting the centre in the Netherlands the boys got the chance to speak to the research scientists and see the use of pioneering space age technology.
‘The best bit for me was seeing them testing the ‘Rover’ which is a vehicle used for space exploration,’ said Andrei.
‘I am interested in a career in space science but I know it is a difficult field to get into,’ added Ethan.