Red planet research a Dubai hit for Sydney students

Three Sydney public schools and their Middle Eastern counterparts have overcome distance and time zones as they worked together to imagine life on Mars.

Image: The Richmond North Public School crew.

A group of students at three Sydney public schools have made a lasting impression halfway around the planet - while working on a project that was out of this world.

Moorefield Girls High School, Richmond North Public School and Wiley Park Girls High School were among five Australian schools to showcase their research and design work at the recently held Dubai Expo.

Their projects were based around living on Mars and were presented remotely for the exhibition.

Part of the Connecting Minds Project, developed by the One Giant Leap Foundation, girls at the schools worked collaboratively with their Dubai counterparts to harness their STEM skills in a range of scenarios.

Students of the Year 11 Engineering Studies class at Moorefield Girls High School teamed with the Winchester School in Dubai, researching and designing a bridge for the Mars rovers, that could feasibly be used on the red planet.

They had to take into consideration the extreme conditions and using minimal tools while girls from the Winchester School investigated the use of robotics for the task.

“I relished the opportunity to gain insights from other educators in Australian schools and build a collaborative network with educators in the UAE,” said Penny Gill, Engineering Studies head teacher. “Although dealing with the difference in time zones was a challenge!”

Richmond North Public School meanwhile selected 10 girls from Years 3 to 5 to be part of its team.

They worked on the project during weekly meetings at school and in their spare time, collaborating with the Australian International School in Dubai.

Image: The Wiley Park Girls High School team of Aiman Juairaih, Mawahib Rodoshee Mariam Hussein and Ropo Progga.

Teachers Georgina Donaldson and Lisa Hayday led them in trying to solve the problem: "How might we provide a habitable space for the first youth on Mars?"

A highlight for the team was having a call with the head of the Australian Space Agency, Enrico Palermo, and getting their project played at the Australian Pavilion at the Dubai Expo.

Wiley Park Girls High School connected with the Gems Modern Academy in Dubai to investigate how they would go about establishing a colony on Mars.

The four Sydney students collaborated with 11 girls from Gems to consider a range of concepts from travel, to radiation-proof clothing, oxygen, using nuclear byproducts as a resource and what the social structure on the planet might look like.

“It was good for them to be exposed to another culture,” said Murray Henstock, Wiley Park Girls High School science head teacher.

“The similarities, the differences - and how to communicate with people in a different country, with different expectations, timelines and viewpoints.”

The schools used a range of different tools such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft OneNote to complete their projects and in many instances put in substantial time outside school hours to fit in with the seven-hour time difference in Dubai.

Teamwork and collaboration proved to be enduring themes from the experience, not to mention acquiring some more knowledge about the space industry which is expected to offer up another 20,000 jobs worldwide by 2030.

Image: The Moorefield Girls High School team of Eunice Kwan, Ella Ahmed, Erica Song, Ms Penny Gill, Claudia Behan and An Ho.
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