Toronto High School Wins the International SpaceCRAFT Exploration Challenge

On Saturday 26th September, Team Toronto High of ME Program partner school Toronto High School was crowned overall winner of the six-day International SpaceCRAFT Exploration Challenge. The international space race to fictional planet, Vulcan, saw 195 school students aged between 12 and 17 from 25 schools in Egypt, the USA and Australia compete for honours by undertaking a series of visually-accurate interactive activities on the Space Frontier.

Students were mentored by subject-matter-experts including astronauts, scientists and engineers who are directly involved in current space missions at organisations including NASA as they undertook six activities and accompanying lessons. Students were tutored in such areas as Space Science, Spacecraft Design, Orbits and Planetary Observations, and Robotic & EVA Exploration and tasked to design a space craft, navigate to and land on other planets, build planetary habitats, and explore planets for life sustaining resources. They implemented the specifically-designed software package, SpaceCRAFT which provides a high fidelity simulation of the universe, including real planetary data from NASA/JPL and correct physics for models of space and planetary environments, to deliver their solutions.

Sponsored by Regional Development Australia (RDA) Hunter’s ME Program, student teams from Maitland Grossmann High School, Medowie Christian School, Merewether High School, Newcastle Grammar School, San Clemente High School (that entered a nine-strong combined girls and boys team), St Philip’s Christian College Newcastle, and Toronto High School competed.

· Team Toronto High from Toronto High School placed 1st overall

· Team SPCC from St Philip’s Christian College Newcastle placed 3rd in their division + 5th overall.

Head of Technological & Applied Science (TAS) at Toronto High School, Peter Chapman said of his Team’s win, “We are extremely proud of Team Toronto High. The boys’ dedication and perseverance in the competition was absolutely outstanding. The activities certainly challenged their technical and critical-thinking skills but Chris, Finn, Sebastian and William excelled. We can’t thank RDA Hunter’s ME Program enough for the opportunity to compete internationally. To have won the Challenge against such fierce competition is an exceptional result that gives our students confidence to continue their iSTEM and engineering studies and has excited them for the future.”

Toronto High School student Chris Olde said that during the SpaceTeams Challenge he learned about many aspects of the challenges of space travel and how NASA plans and executes successful missions. “The overall experience of the challenge was amazing and the knowledge gained will be very useful for my future learning. It gave me insight into potential careers in the space industry and I am now thinking I could study either astrophysics or aeronautical engineering with the possibility of working for the Australian Space Agency or even NASA.”

While teammate Sebastian Hornsby found the challenge to be fun and informative, “I enjoyed listening to the talks from previous astronauts as well as the Australian robotics expert from JPL Ben Morel. It has helped me realise why this is an excellent avenue for me to pursue later on in life.”

Of his Year 7 team at St Philip’s Christian College, Mr Dave Bonzo, Head of iSTEM and Engineering Studies said, “These guys amazed me! The competition was not easy, with challenges such as optimizing fuel usage on transfer orbits between planets. The SpaceCRAFT software platform allowed each student to collaborate while working independently on achieving their mission goals for the day. The students were excited to address each day’s challenges and they performed exceptionally well.”

SpaceCRAFT Challenge managers, Space-Teams, is led by former NASA astronaut and Director of Texas A&M’s AeroSpace Technology, Research & Operations (ASTRO), Dr. Greg Chamitoff.

According to Dr Chamitoff, Space Teams provides experiential learning through teamwork. “We are dedicated to producing a platform and eco-system that will inspire and activate the next leaders in Space and STEM and engage and connect people in an interactive exploration of the cosmos. We ultimately want to enable young people to join the international community of scientists and engineers working on the space frontier.”

“The results from Australia’s Hunter region in its first year of competition are truly outstanding. The dedication and skill level of the students can’t be overestimated. It bodes well for the future international space community.”

RDA Hunter’s ME Program continues to provide new and interesting opportunities for Hunter students to develop their skills and technical knowledge by competing in local, national and international competitions. The International SpaceCRAFT Challenge is a new activity for the ME Program and proved a winner in its inaugural year.

“Congratulations to Toronto High School, St Philip’s Christian College and all the Hunter teams for an outstanding effort. To have ranked first and fifth in this competitive field is an extraordinary result. RDA Hunter is very pleased to be able to facilitate participation in activities like the SpaceCRAFT Challenge. They give students confidence to stick with their STEM studies, build interest and excitement in pursuing STEM careers, and contribute to a skilled and homegrown Hunter workforce,” said RDA Hunter’s Manager of Skilled Workforce Programs, Rick Evans.

This has also featured in;

Hunter schools in top 5 international space challenge winners – Newcastle Weekly

Toronto High students win virtual international space race challenge | Newcastle Herald | Newcastle, NSW