Competition stimulates interest in STEM and space careers 

Issue: Volume 100, Number 1

Posted: 15 February 2021
Reference #: 1HAGyM

A NASA Scientist for a Day writing competition for Years 7-10 students is now open for entries. 

NASA Scientist for a Day | Kaipūtaiao NASA  te Rā is an annual essay writing competition run locally by the New Zealand Space Agency. The competition aims to inspire students towards STEM subjects and space careers, challenging students to think like a NASA scientist. 

Space education is important here in Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s a sector with huge potential for growth and offers exciting career opportunities for young people with all sorts of skills, from all sorts of backgrounds. 

A recent report by Deloitte(external link) found that the New Zealand space industry was worth $1.7 billion in 2018/19, directly employed 5,000 people and indirectly supported a further 7,000 jobs.  

For this year’s competitionstudents are asked to learn about three moons of Uranus — Ariel, Oberon and Titania – then write an essay of up to 300 words explaining which of these moons they would want to explore with a robotic spacecraft. Winning students could walk away with some seriously cool prizes and have their essays published on the NASA and the New Zealand Space Agency websites. 

The competition gives students the opportunity to learn more about space, develop their reading and writing skills, and start exploring career pathways in STEM. 

Last year’s winners 

Last year’s winners were Sophie Ineson of Southland Girls High School (Year 7-8) and Oshadha Perera of Southland Boys High School (Year 9-10), who each won a Sky-Watcher 6-inch Dobsonian telescope from Astronz, along with help on how to use it from the Southland Astronomical Society.   

Sophie is passionate about space, and in particular, about getting more girls in Years 7-10 interested in space careers. 

Being a NASA Scientist for a Day winner has taught me that never giving up can let you achieve great things. I have learnt a lot about space, including Triton, one of Neptune’s moons. I have loved the adventures of seeing new objects through my telescope. My favourite discoveries have been Sirius, the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. 

I’ve also become passionate about making sure others get the chance to experience space science opportunities because, according to Carl Sagan: ‘somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known’,” says Sophie. 

Oshadha  also enjoyed the experience of researching and writing his entry for the contest last year. 

“I entered the NASA Scientist for a Day Competition because I loved reading about the solar system. It provided me with a great opportunity to learn more about the search for life in the universe and how different celestial objects had different qualities that would have supported life.  

The prize [a telescope] was really exciting  I was able to see really clear images of the Moon and its craters, Jupiter, the Galilean moons and Saturn, which made me more interested in astronomy,” says Oshadha. 

If you’re a science or English teacher of Years 7-10 and you’d like your students to take part, register your interest with the New Zealand Space Agency here(external link). You’ll be sent resources to help make the space learning journey for you and your students easy and fun. 

Find out more    

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:20 pm, 15 February 2021

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