Powerhouse Museum's Future Space program

As part of the Lang Walker Family Academy In-Schools Program, Powerhouse and Magnitude.i.o team up to take students on a mission to the International Space Station.

This innovative partnership delivers a world-class STEM program to students across Western Sydney. Students use NASA-inspired design thinking strategies to grow alfalfa seeds and monitor them in an ExoLab, in preparation for a real-life space mission on the international space station. Students will conduct ground trials, compare their seedlings and think about how we can one day take plants to Mars. Students will be connected to local and international experts to inspire them and further develop their thinking.

Watch 'Powerhouse Future Space' (08:09)

Future Space program presentation

(Duration: 8 minutes 9 seconds)

[Red and blue logo revealed reading ‘STEM 2022 on demand’.] 

Sophie Poisel:

[Screen shows a montage of images and videos that demonstrate what Powerhouse Paramatta will look like once construction is complete in 2025. It is a multi-storey building in the shape of the letter ‘L’, with white steel railings covering the sides in a diagonal criss-cross pattern. The site is situated along the Paramatta river.]

Powerhouse Paramatta will be the new home of science and technology in the heart of Greater Sydney. The Powerhouse is in the midst of expansion and renewal. Looking back to its establishment in 1881, the museum will continue to connect visitors with new ideas and new technologies.

[Screen shows the speaker. Text on screen reads, ‘Sophie Poisel. Head, Lang Walker Family Academy’.]

We're really excited to be able to offer ‘Powerhouse: Future Space’ as the inaugural program for the Lang Walker Family Academy.

[Description not needed: The visuals in this part of the video only support what is spoken; the visuals do not provide additional information.]

We will welcome over 10,000 students from Western Sydney and regional New South Wales, delivering dynamic education programs and develop these experiments that go beyond their classroom walls.

Sharon Ann Davis:

We're at Hurlstone Agricultural High School at Glenfield in Western Sydney.

[Screen shows the speaker. Text on screen reads, ‘Sharon Ann Davis. Deputy principal, Hurlstone Agricultural High School’.]

And we are growing tiny little alfalfa seeds and we're going to grow those and monitor them in an amazing ExoLab system.

[Screen shows a montage of videos that support what is spoken. Between these clips, the speaker is also shown.]

Student 1:

ExoLab-10 is a series of experiments all around the world to discover how different factors affect plant growth in space, specifically alfalfa.

Ted Tagami:

[Screen shows a group of high school students in a classroom. They are participating in a video call with Ted Tagami, who is seen on a monitor at the front of the room.]

So I'm Ted Tagami, co-founder of Magnitude and I want to welcome you on ExoLab-10, our mission to the International Space Station.

[Screen shows the speaker. Text on screen reads, ‘Ted Tagami. CEO and co-founder, Magnitude i.o’. Screen alternates between showing clips of the speaker, the students and a montage of short videos that support what is spoken.]

Working with the Powerhouse, the Lang Walker Academy, the Department of Education and your school as well as 5 other schools in Western Sydney, we're connecting you with schools around the world on this mission to the International Space Station.

Students will be conducting ground trials and connected to this live experiment when it goes up in October. As you look at these plants growing, you'll compare them and look at how an organism might grow in a microgravity environment. So really excited for you to join us on this as we think about how plants can help us on that long journey to Mars, but also how those plants can help us right here on Earth.

[Screen shows the students conducting experiments in a lab.]

Student 2:

Perhaps experimenting with sound, a good nitrogen-oxygen ratio.

Student 3:

The angle might challenge the way that the agar has been set up.

Student 4:

Oh, okay.

Student 1:

[Screen shows each speaker, followed by a series of short video clips that support what is being spoken.]

Because it is a plant that doesn't require too complex of a growing condition, making it ideal for astronauts in space to plant for long term missions.

Student 5:

This could revolutionise everything we've made and it could even mean we might start growing plants in space. Maybe even Mars.

Ted Tagami:

And ExoLab-10, it will be our first step on that long journey of actually putting something, hopefully by your own hands, designed in space.

Sophie Poisel:

I'm really excited to see what the students find in their experiments and how that compares with the rest of the world. I think it's a brilliant opportunity for students in Australia to have an experiment on the International Space Station.

[Screen shows the students back in the classroom, participating in a video call with Ted Tagami. Screen alternates between showing clips of each speaker, the students in the classroom and a montage of short videos that support what is spoken.]

Student 3:

Will there be anything to ensure that the growth of the plants doesn't actually hit the top of the exopods?

Sophie Poisel:

Space is kind of a naturally engaging context and seeing that excitement in the kids is just absolutely brilliant.

Student 6:

And how is that going to advance space agriculture, specifically?

Ted Tagami:

You guys have great questions. It's really good. You guys are so fortunate that you're entering into an era right now in which a lot of these questions you're bringing up are still unknowns. I expect that you guys are going to share some interesting ideas that we might want to consider, maybe this mission or future missions as well.

[Screen shows Sophie Poisel and Sarah Reeves sitting in a room and facing the camera.]

Sophie Poisel:

I'm Sophie Poisel, the head of the Lang Walker Family Academy at Powerhouse Paramatta. I've been an educator for over a decade and I'm an advocate for the power of transdisciplinary learning opportunities to engage students in authentic context, develop their conceptual understanding and empower them as change makers.

Sarah Reeves:

[Text on screen reads, ‘Sarah Reeves. Curator, Powerhouse’. Screen alternates between showing the 2 speakers and displaying a montage of short videos that support what is spoken.]

I'm Sarah Reeves and I'm a science curator with the Powerhouse Museum where I look after our collection of space and astronomy, as well as other areas of science and technology.

Researching the historical objects in our collection, building our collection as new discoveries and breakthroughs are made and creating new exhibitions that will engage our visitors in the stories of those objects.

Before joining the powerhouse, I spent several years studying the sky using giant radio telescopes such as the Parkes Radio Telescope and others like it. Using these to study how galaxies grow and evolve over cosmic time and searching for the remnants of exploded supernova in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

While working at Sydney Observatory, I realised that my true passion lay in science communication. I want everyone to understand and be excited about science and to encourage more students into STEM careers in the future. After all, they are the scientists and engineers of the future.

Naturally, I'm incredibly excited about the plans to return to the Moon and ultimately send humans onto Mars, as well as all of the new technologies. For instance, miniature cube sets, which are changing the way that we explore space and who can participate.

Australia's role in space continues to grow. And excitingly, Australia will be building a lunar rover to be sent to the moon as part of NASA's Artemis program as early as 2026. Within the Powerhouse collection of more than 500,000 objects, our space collection tracks the development of space exploration from the beginnings of rocketry technology through to the present day, while a broader collection captures the many ways that space exploration benefits and impacts all of our daily lives.

Sophie Poisel:

We have launched the inaugural program, Powerhouse: Future Space, this year with 6 schools from Western Sydney – Arthur Phillip High School, Casula High School, East Hills Girls Technology High School, Hurlstone Agricultural High School, Jamison High School and Seven Hills High School. Plus the additional schools, Murrumbidgee Regional High School and Maitland Grossmann High School. The students will be developing solutions to further improve life on Earth and explore space.

Students will conduct an experiment to find the ideal conditions for growing alfalfa in an ExoLab, along with their peers from schools across the world. The students will be able to analyse their results and compare this to their peers, both in their classroom and across the world. They will design their own experiment to be conducted in microgravity. And we hope to see one of these student-designed experiments launched and implemented on the International Space Station. So the students are going to be able to develop their communication skills as they share their findings at state and international conferences. The program also connects students with industry leaders from across the globe.

Sarah Reeves:

I'm really excited because this program gives students the opportunity to connect directly with experiments that are happening on the Space Station, as well as with other students around the state.

Sophie Poisel:

This is only the beginning of what's possible and I'm so excited to be part of this important step towards transforming our current education system.

Sarah Reeves:

For me, space has this fantastic appeal. It's something that almost everyone loves and in that way, it's an opportunity to engage and excite more students about science and about STEM disciplines and the potential for pursuing a STEM career in the future.

Sophie Poisel:

Our programs, challenges, events and camps will engage students in rich and authentic experiences where they will use STEM understandings to identify local and global problems and develop solutions.

So what we are doing is a world first. The Lang Walker Family Academy will lead transformational change in the education system. So we're co-designing programs that connect to and go beyond the curriculum. Connecting students with industry experts to help them develop the skills to solve real problems.

[Video concludes by displaying the logos for the Paramatta Powerhouse, the Walker Family Foundation and the NSW Government.] 

[End of transcript] 

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