ESA Academy opens a universe of student possibilities

30 March 2016

A universe of possibilities opened up for sixteen university students during March when the newly established ESA Academy ran its first ever training course.

Situated in the Ardennes region of Belgium, the winter snows had receded and spring was greening the land. It was also spring-time for the careers of the students on the course.

Each has been chosen to participate in the next round of Spin Your Thesis! or Drop Your Thesis! programmes. These are two student programmes offered by ESA’s Education Office to give university students access to world-class research equipment. 

Spin Your Thesis! uses ESA’s Large Diameter Centrifuge (LDC) to create hyper gravity, while Drop Your Thesis! allows students to run experiments in microgravity by using the ZARM Drop Tower in Bremen, Germany.

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Student presenting her team's experimentAccess the image

It is hoped that many European students will look back at these programmes as the springboard that launched their aerospace careers, by giving them confidence and experience in running professional experiments.

To make the most of these opportunities the students were invited to spend four days at the ESA Academy, soaking up the experience of 14 leading experts from ESA and European Universities. They were coached in how to design and build professional scientific experiments.

One team who will be participating in the Drop Your Thesis 2016 campaign, stated, “It has been a week of great inspiration and hard work. Meeting the experts has been helpful and will improve our experiment; we've had also fun and met new friends. Absolutely a positive experience.”

Another said it was about “getting inspired for excellence.”

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Lecture during the training weekAccess the image

During the four days, the students attended lectures designed to help them better develop experiments. Beyond the bedrock of the investigation itself, system engineering, project and risk management, experiment automation, communication and fundraising were also addressed in a series of workshops. 

They also got their turn in the spotlight when they presented their projects to experts and had individual meetings with engineers from the facility they would be using for their experiments.

Finally, they had the chance to meet students who had already participated in previous years of the programmes. This was an invaluable opportunity to see the success of previous students and to learn from their experience.

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Students during training weekAccess the image

A future glimpse of the ‘world’ they are preparing to inhabit came in the form of a visit from an ESA astronaut and a trip to Belgium’s Euro Space Centre. 

“The training week inspired us to be skilful, to do more and better. Incredible experience to visit and take part on the first ESA Academy event. The input from both the experts and the other team members participating in ESA's educational programmes will certainly contribute to the success of our experiment in September,” stated one of the Spin Your Thesis! 2016 teams.

The unique nature of the opportunity was not lost on the students, some of whom were already recognising the thrill of working with a big scientific organisation. “In the ESA Academy there is that kind of positive energy that you can find only when scientists with different background work together. In ESA this occurs everyday and it shows,” stated another Spin Your Thesis! 2016 team.

The next ESA Academy course will take place in late June. This is open to any university student who is studying science or engineering. More details can be found here.

Notes for Editors:

For more information, contact: esa.academy @ esa.int

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