Authors: Kids from the STEP Computer Academy
And InnovaSpace Admin Director - Mary Upritchard
Over the last few months, InnovaSpace's very own space doctor, Thais Russomano, has been listening to some of the First Lego League tournament teams talking about the projects they have developed for this year’s Into Orbit mission, answering their questions and giving some tips as to areas they might also consider. The annual competition has teams taking part from all over the world (92 different countries this year), adopting a different theme each time linked to robotics and the STEM areas, and aimed at encouraging young students to improve critical thinking and team-building skills, stimulating their creativity and giving the opportunity to present their projects in public in front of judges. As part of this year’s competition, students have been thinking about ways to improve the life, health and wellbeing of astronauts in space, with some really constructive and original ideas being contemplated by these bright young minds.
We were approached by teams from the STEP Computer Academy in Seattle USA a little while back, with great questions they had about their projects. With Thais having given them some feedback, we were delighted to hear recently that 3 of the 5 Into Orbit teams from the academy had made it through to the semi-finals of their national competition, and we are even more delighted now to be able to present three short texts from those teams:
Hello! We are the Galaxy Rulers – a fun and hardworking FIRST LEGO league team from Bellevue, Washington, USA. Our team consists of 8 teammates: Adam, Felix, Owen, Princeton, Urvi, Vanesha, Varshini, and Vedika. We are working on a project to reduce health problems like homesickness in long-term space missions like the Mars 100 mission—Mars colonization project. After getting assistance and opinions from experts and doing research, we came to a solution.
Astronauts can benefit from reminders of home to fight homesickness, so we decided to use plants. Plants can remind astronauts of Earth and beautiful nature. Our solution is totally innovative, as we are using customized plants that the astronauts are familiar with or it is their state flower or plant. We hope that our solution will solve real-world problems in the future.
WE ARE THE GALAXY RULERS
WE MEASURE THE GALAXY!
Hello everyone! We are The Titans! We are a First LEGO League team from Bellevue, WA, USA!
We have 8 teammates: Nikita, Irina, Ayush, Amish, Neev, Amish, Henry, and Liam.
We are working on a project that helps astronauts cope with stress in space. We did research and talked to experts, and found out that astronauts experience a lot of stress on the ISS. A solution to that is to create a relaxation method that will help astronauts reduce stress while working in space.
We are working on a relaxation booth that will address various astronauts’ senses. We propose a relaxation booth that will have real plants inside, relaxation music and a variety of calming scents.
Hi there! We are a First LEGO League team called Space Pirate Pickles!
We are from Bellevue, Washington, United States and we have six members on our team: Liam, Tony, Koden, Hanming, Michael and Vishnu.
Our project is to find new ways to protect astronauts from the space radiation when on long-term space missions. According to our research, such non-technical and easily accessible things like vitamins (D, E, C etc.), iodine-based foods, plants (aloe vera, cactuses), placebos and acupuncture can add to the protection from space radiation. So to solve this problem, we suggest combining non-technical and technical solutions (e.g. thermos-nuclear rockets).
We believe the problem of space radiation will be solved and we will be able to safely (health-wise) travel to far away planets.
We also want to add that First LEGO League has been a great learning experience. FLL journey is all about discovery, learning something new every day, cooperating sharing what we learned with others.
Many InnovaSpace congratulations to the teams from the STEP computer academy, and to all the teams who have taken part in this prestigious tournament - you are all stars!
Wishing the very best of luck to the Galaxy Rulers, The Titans, and the Space Pirate Pickles for their semi-final presentations, and to the many other teams in their national competitions all around the world - ad astra!
InnovaSpace Admin Director
With another year now drawn to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the two very successful InnovaSpace Kids2Mars events that took place in 2018 involving questions asked by children to crew members of Mars analogue missions, one with the MDRS Crew 185 in the Utah desert and the other with the Austrian Space Forum’s AMADEE-18 mission in the Dhofar desert in Oman.
In summary, 53 children from 33 different countries from around the world had the opportunity to ask anything they wanted about travelling to and life on Mars, and very interesting answers came back from analogue astronauts and crew members who spent their time isolated in desert regions, especially chosen for their similarities to the planet Mars.
Analogue astronauts on this type of mission in general have little spare time, as they are involved in many research activities, so we knew we could not bombard them with a mountain of questions. This in fact also linked well with our aims for the Kids2Mars project, which was to involve children from as many different countries as possible – quantity of countries rather than quantity of questions. With our tagline of Space Without Borders, this aspect was of prime importance, so an end result of 33 countries was very satisfying, especially so considering the diverse range of nations involved, such as Bolivia, Bulgaria, Iceland, Mongolia and Nepal. In fact, we had questions coming from countries in 6 of the 7 continents, just missing out on Antarctica, which for obvious reasons is a little more difficult!
It was interesting to hear how the name of the planet Mars, named after the Roman god of war, was pronounced in the various languages. Certainly, the sound of the word was the same or very similar to the English pronunciation in the majority of cases, however, there were a few exceptions, such as from China, Japan, Nepal, Libya and Indian Tamil. We have extracted the word Mars, where mentioned, from all of the children’s questions and with the invaluable help of our two collaborators from Italy, Fabio Pinna and Mario Mollo, created a short video – we hope you like it!
One thing that has become obvious from all the Kids2Mars activities we have conducted is how much the subject of space and space travel arouses curiosity, and how much the young people involved in the lectures and creative pursuits have done so with great enthusiasm and interest. In our view, this is exactly why outreach activities linked to Mars or the Moon or astronauts, in fact anything involving space, can be used as a tool to capture the attention and interest of children, motivating them to give more consideration to the STEM areas of education. Although the adults of today are laying and securing the foundations of human life in space, it is our children who will build on this to become the Space Generation, and perhaps in time, even future Mars colonisers!
Gabriela Albandes de Souza
InnovaSpace Culture & Education Project Manager
The InnovaSpace outreach projects Valentina and Astronaut for a Day had another edition in Brazil last week, with company founder, Dr. Thais Russomano, giving two space science talks to students from the state school Olegário Mariano, in Porto Alegre.
The first lecture, watched by 48 teenagers from the 9th year (aged 14-15 years), focused on the Valentina initiative, which aims is to raise the interest of girls in the sciences and to break gender prejudice by highlighting those women who have made important contributions to the development of the space program since its inception. Following a final Q & A session in which the curious students asked many interesting questions, the group were asked to use their creativity to build a rocket using simple materials provided by the school, such as fizzy drink bottles, cardboard boxes and aluminium foil. Chatting with the students afterwards we found that, while some said they already intended to pursue careers in the STEM areas, others became interested after getting to know the many possibilities that these fields offer.
The second lecture of the day, called Astronaut for a Day and attended by 25 5th year students (aged 10-11 years), explained how astronauts live and work in space, the impact of microG and radiation on human physiology, and the importance of the spacecraft and spacesuit in keeping the astronauts alive and well in space. The students also watched a video about the life of the crew aboard the ISS and were amazed by the differences between life in space and on Earth. These inquisitive young people actively participated in the event, raising their hands to answer questions posed by Dr. Russomano (five raised hands when asked who wanted to be an astronaut), and coming up with questions of their own about many aspects of life in space. At the end of the presentation, this group were set the task of making a spacesuit from the materials provided, while a group of young ladies resolved to create a spacecraft.
The team at InnovaSpace send a big thank you to biologist Adriana Bos-Mikich, who conducted the first Astronaut for a Day project in Brazil and introduced us to the Director of the Olegário Mariano school, Gustavo Adolfo Albrecht, who welcomed the initiative. Our thanks also go to the Science and Biology teachers, Marcia Tagliani and Johnny Pereira de Aguiar respectively, who helped greatly in organising the activities.
A few members of the InnovaSpace team had the pleasure of meeting up in September this year in the beautiful city of Lisbon. Although primarily for work purposes linked to the launch of the Space Network (Rede Espaço) at the University of Lisbon, we must NEVER forget to mix a little pleasure wherever the opportunity presents itself - and as you will see from the photos, we had fun in Lisbon too!
Picturesque Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is one of the oldest cities in Europe, full of history, culture, and great food. The traditional dish bacalhau (codfish) is famous and has to be tried, while for lovers of something a little sweeter, the pastéis de Belém (a type of egg custard tart) are legendary and were originally made by monks of the Jerónimos Monastery using a secret recipe. As many of these mouth-watering tarts were eaten in our time in Lisbon, it seemed only fitting that we should also visit their place of invention! The former monastery dates back to 1495 and is well worth a visit, especially on a sunny day, and it was from there that Dr. Joan Vernikos, former NASA Director of Life Sciences recorded the few words below, encouraging young people to consider following a career in space research - there couldn't have been a more beautiful setting!
The tagline of the InnovaSpace Valentina project is ‘Science is for girls too!’ – an ideal we very much support, and an excellent example of which is Space Physiologist, Dr. Julia Attias, who is a PhD Researcher at King's College London.
I had the pleasure of meeting Julia a few years ago when she was doing her Master’s degree in Space Physiology and Health (2012) at King’s College London, which then led on to her completing a PhD in Space Physiology (2018). Julia is passionate about inspiring young ladies to pursue a career in the STEM areas, and dedicates some of her time to writing blogs for websites such as WISE (Women In Science and Engineering), and a charity, GlamSci, aimed at breaking down perceived stereotypes and barriers to STEM areas. We asked Julia a few questions about her life and path to becoming a space physiologist:
What sort of child were you?
I can say I was a very energetic child and very focused on sports activities from a very early age. My Mum was a tennis coach, so from about the age of about 4 years old, I could be found running around a tennis court, gripping my first racquet in hand, on which someone had spray-painted the letter ‘J’. Naturally enough by the time I started school my favourite subject was PE (physical education), at which I was always very competitive indeed!
What were your school years like?
I was lucky enough to go to great schools; I enjoyed my school years and made some good friends. At primary school I sometimes used to get in trouble for talking too much, but in fact it wasn’t just idle chatter for the sake of it, it was my constant curiosity about anything and everything that made me ask questions and comment out loud - too loud sometimes!
I loved music (probably inspired by my Dad who was a drummer) and being in plays at primary school, and continued this on into my teenage years when I joined the Pineapple Performing Arts School in Covent Garden. I learned street dance, singing and acting there, and grew up wanting to be in front of the camera - this ambition I have since achieved through participating in a Discovery Channel series called 'Meet The SuperBrains' and more recently in the Channel 4 series 'Food Unwrapped''.
What sparked your interest in science?
Through all my sporting activity, the idea that humans are designed to move around was embedded in me from a very young age. I would run around the tennis court and wonder why my heart beat so much faster, curious about the mechanisms involved within our body that allow us to run and jump, and improve our endurance and strength. In PE we began to have lessons about sports theory and I soon realised that science was a field of study that could answer some of my questions, whilst at the same time posing so many more questions that still required responses. This hooked my interest and I began to enjoy the triple sciences at high school, especially biology, as I could learn more about how the human body functions. This really did direct the path of my career as I then went on to take a sports science degree at university.
How did you jump from sports to space science?
I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘space-geek’ and I never started off with the intention of a career in space science. I was never drawn to watching sci-fi programs on TV or films, like Star Wars or Star Trek, but what I really found interesting when I did my degree was learning about how the body functions in extreme environments, and you can’t really get more of an extreme environment than being up in Space! Quite by chance I found out that King’s College do a Master’s degree in Space Physiology and Health, and so I jumped at the chance of doing in, and the rest is history! There is an overlap between sports science and space physiology because of the fundamental scientific concepts that exist between them, but there are many other science disciplines you can study where you will also find this overlap, for example nutrition, medicine, pharmacy, engineering, physiotherapy, and many, many more.
What advice would you give to girls who are at school right now?
Don’t be put off by the STEM subjects at school and try to study some of them. You might have no idea at the moment what career you want to follow, but if you have some of the core subjects there it will always help you, as they always overlap with so many other areas.
Don’t be put off by stereotypes of the sciences and engineering being only for boys – times are changing and will continue to change. As a woman in the area of space science, I have to admit that I still see far fewer women than men when I look around the conference room of a scientific congress, however, I don’t see this as a negative - I see it as a golden opportunity for me to make my mark and to help change attitudes for the future generation.
Try to find something you feel passionate about – this will fill you with the motivation you need to work hard, be determined, and succeed.
And to finish off a few random questions...
Albert Einstein changed classical physics by stating that time is not an absolute quantity, but rather it is relative, as it depends on the speed of the bodies that measure its passage. This relationship to movement is called time dilation, where time passes more slowly to rapidly moving objects. To illustrate this theory, Einstein created a story about two identical twins, in which one travels to a distant planet at the speed of light, while the other remains on Earth. On returning from his cosmic journey, the twin who travelled is younger than his brother who remained on solid ground.
The Flux Phase theatre group has transformed this complex physics theory into a creative and entertaining play, which bears the same name as given by Einstein - Twin Paradox. Six actors give life to the Theory of Relativity, combining aspects of Einsteinian physics with the body alterations suffered by the twins after three decades of separation, and the emotional conflicts generated by a reunion after so many years.
This theatre group has already taken the Twin Paradox to various cities in England, including London, where it was part of the Camden Fringe Festival. Recently, I had the opportunity to watch it at The Albany - my first play seen in an English pub. After the show, I sat down for a celebratory drink with the actors, who were already known to me, as a few months previously I had the chance to talk to the group about how the human body and mind behave in an extraterrestrial environment, and upon return to Earth.
I'm not sure how long we were sat there sipping our drinks on that hot English summer Saturday. "Time really is relative", I thought. However, it is not only the speed of bodies that matter. Emotions also affect the way in which we measure their passage.
(Translation of the original article, written by Thais Russomano, and published in the Diario Popular journal, Pelotas, Brazil. Version in Portuguese can be found at https://www.diariopopular.com.br/index.php?n_sistema=4059&id_noticia=MTM0NTg4&id_area=MTUw )
InnovaSpace Founder, CEO & Scientific Director
Set your imagination flowing and just consider the following scenario:
"What's your preference? Cultural holidays? Something more adventurous?" asked the travel agent.
The clients would think for a moment and then, slightly hesitantly, they would respond. "We like extreme sports, like mountain climbing, parachute jumping, or diving into the depths of the oceans."
"Excellent - and so I suggest Mars! On the Red Planet there is an extinct volcano, Mount Olympus, the highest in the Solar System, three times taller than our own Everest!" recommended the agent.
"And there the gravity is just one-third that of Earth, which reduces your body to just over 30% of what you weigh here. Therefore, it's even easier to climb mountains there." I added, as the Space Medic of the Intergalactic Travel Agency.
This conversation and many others like it could be heard during a summer festival in London's Brockwell Park in late July, thanks to the creative thinking of Guerrilla Science, who wanted to present the idea of the possibility of experiencing holiday trips to different planets.
Children and adults entered into the game, discussing possible destinations, the activities that could be offered on each planet, or on the moon or an asteroid, the distances to be travelled, and the costs of such a vacation to places far beyond the limits of the Earth. Actors played the role of the travel agents, while I introduced aspects of space tourism that can affect the health of intergalactic adventurers, such as exposure to radiation, the absence of gravity, and confinement within a spacecraft.
Projects, such as this, still belong in the realms of science fiction for now, but they will begin to take shape in the not-so-distant future with the political, scientific and technological advances of Space Tourism. And in response to those of you who do not believe such a thing, Albert Einstein would say - "Something is only impossible until someone doubts it and ends up proving otherwise.”
Phil Carvil, PhD
MedTech Cluster Development Manager at STFC, and all-round fitness and Space fanatic!
My name is Phil Carvil and I recently completed my PhD at King’s College London, undertaking a technical evaluation of the European Space Agency’s SkinSuit, as part of their Networking/Partnering program, in which I investigated how the spine is affected by the axial loading properties of the suit. But how I personally arrived at this point, and in this career, is a little different.
My father got me interested in space science through astronomy and science fiction, while my mother aroused my curiosity about medicine through her work as an intensive care nurse. This sparked my initial interest in the fields of space exploration and human physiology. At school I loved science but hated P.E. as I had no confidence in this area and no real understanding of why exercise was good for me. Nonetheless, while at college a friend took me to the gym (nearly kicking and screaming) and it was from that moment on that I started to take part in fitness classes and group exercise, and began to become interested in fitness.
Around this time, I was deciding where to do my bachelors degree, which I had planned on doing in astrophysics, however, I was becoming more and more interested in what was happening to my body through exercise and why. What were the mechanisms for the benefit of exercise? How was it working? Did I need to do more/less? These questions drove my decision to undertake an applied BSc in Exercise and Health Science at the University of Chichester.
I loved the course so much I went on to do a Masters degree in Sport and Exercise Physiology. I was fascinated with learning how the various physiological systems, heart, lungs, bones, muscles, psychology, all change in response to exercise stimulus. But what began to steer my path more towards space was finding out how extreme environments change our body, how it responds to alterations in temperature, atmosphere and, ultimately, gravity.
To apply my skill-sets further I became a trainer, health mentor and instructor for Nuffield Health. Here I was able to train and work with a large variety of people, all with different needs and goals. It was immensely rewarding and I still teach classes to this day, however that curiosity was still in my mind, what happens to the human body in the most extreme environment – space? Around this time, I noticed that a new course (MSc) in Space Physiology had started at King’s College London, and it took me all of 10 seconds to pick up the phone and ask if there were places available. It was not long after this that while on my way to the course induction, I met in the elevator someone who was to become one of my best friends, Julia, who strangely enough had a similar journey to me for arriving in a space-related career.
Over the period of the course we heard from so many leading experts in their field about how the body works and changes, both on Earth and in Space. The MSc course is supported by the Space Medicine Office of the European Astronaut Centre at the European Space Agency (ESA), which provided us with a rich array of experts, contacts and opportunities. And in fact, the opportunity that led both Julia and myself to our PhDs was our Master’s degree dissertation focused on the Gravity Loading Countermeasure SkinSuit. (GLCS). This was a newly designed suit by James Waldie and Dava Newman from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the suit sought to ‘reload’ the body through staged axial loading from shoulders to feet. ESA sought to understand if this technology could be suitable for use as an astronaut countermeasure. The opportunity arose for us to apply our skill-sets in exercise physiology to answer the question of how this suit affected the physiological response to exercise. Was it comfortable to wear? How much did it load the body? Was it thermally tolerable? These are important questions to be considered, especially when you are considering asking someone to wear this suit for potentially long periods of time.
It was this journey (supported along the way by some incredible mentors, friends and family) that led me to the successful completion of my PhD and where I am today, together with my key interests in fitness – why the body changes with exercise and a curiosity for the extreme environment of space.
For anyone interested, details of the King's College London Space Physiology & Health MSc can be found using this LINK. It's a one-year full-time degree course where you mix with like-minded people interested in Space, and have the opportunity to meet international experts who research and work with space agencies, like ESA and NASA, and you also have visits to RAF and Space Agency (ESA & DLR) facilities.
Gabriela Albandes de Souza
InnovaSpace Culture & Education Project Manager
InnovaSpace took another step this week towards achieving its aim of bringing space closer to society, to reach out to underserved communities, and to make science and space more accessible and inclusive, when InnovaSpace founder Thais Russomano gave a virtual lecture about the participation of women in the space programme to an audience of 39 young ladies, aged between 10 and 12 years from two state-run schools in Gravataí, Brazil, as part of a project called ‘Elas no Lab’ (Girls in the Lab).
This project is the brainchild of three high school students from the Escola Sesi de Ensino Médio Albino Marques Gomes, a private high school in the same city in southern Brazil. Eduarda Rosa Ferreira, Indáia Pereira de Matos and Júlia Alvares Missel had the idea of creating workshops to raise the interest of young girls to pursue scientific careers, as part of a project led by their Physics teacher Cláudia Fraga Germano. Cláudia set her students the task of developing projects that would benefit state-run schools, which often do not receive sufficient funding to invest in the sciences, and lack proper laboratories and equipment. The activities also involved a rocket building workshop using recycled materials, a VR glasses experience that allowed the girls to virtually “travel around the universe”, the photo and video recording of the activities, and an exclusive Q & A session about space science with Thais Russomano at the end of her lecture. Feedback from the girls who attended the event was very positive, with many celebrating this unique and fun experience of learning about science. Another mission accomplished successfully due to a collaboration of working ideas and ideals in partnership! However, consider this just a first step – as InnovaSpace is proud to announce the launch of a new outreach project called Valentina – more details to be posted soon!
InnovaSpace Founder, CEO & Scientific Director
The importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) education has long been talked about, with education policy and curriculum choices targeting these areas to improve competitiveness in science and technology development, and to try and address the shortage of skills in the workforce. While these subjects are extremely relevant in today's world, they do not underpin the innovative process in isolation, often requiring a streak of creativity and imagination to set an idea free. History demonstrates well the productive link between the STEM areas and Art, with Leonardo da Vinci being a classic example - both a great scientist and astounding artist.
The practice of art in its numerous senses, such as, language, physical art, music and design, among many others, can provide imaginative opportunities for communication and expression and inspire the young to be creative with their ideas. Blending art into the STEM areas can also provide a conduit by which to attract the interest of those who might not normally consider the sciences. Although a scientist and doctor myself, I have always been drawn to the arts and am equally as happy writing an article on space physiology as I am writing a romance novel. So when I was contacted by a gentleman from a theatre group wanting to know if I could share a little space knowledge with them, I was delighted to say yes!
The FLUX Phase theatre group brings together a diverse group of actors in training, currently completing an MA in Acting at the E15 Acting School in Loughton, Essex. Their latest production is based on Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, which states that as you travel close to the speed of light, time passes more slowly. So imagine if one identical twin makes a journey into space on a near light-speed spaceship, leaving the other twin at home on Earth, and then returns from 30 years space travel. Will the twin who stayed home have aged more? Will one look much older than the other? This is the Twin Paradox!
I had the great pleasure of virtually meeting with this group of actors to discuss the effects that microgravity has on the human body during a space mission - of which there are many! We chatted about bones, muscles, heart, lungs and the brain, and how these all react to being in an environment where there is no gravity, and in turn, they asked many interesting questions related to body movement and human behaviour in space - an interesting two-way process of bringing together science and art.
The clip below of a rehearsal session is just a taste of this very interesting and creative production, which can be seen at The Albany in Gt Portland Street, London, as part of The Camden Fringe on the 4th & 5th August 2018. Well worth a visit, and anyone turning up in a spacesuit or an Albert Einstein mask can enter for free!!
"The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin ... or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity." Mae Jemison, 1st African American woman in space