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Ayrshire to host out of this world opportunity

 18 February 2016  |  


Ayrshire school pupils and college students will have the chance to work alongside NASA leaders and Astronaut Michael Foale CBE this summer, as the Ayrshire College Foundation announced it is funding the 2016 Mission Discovery programme.

Mission Discovery is a week-long educational programme developed by the International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET) and is running for its third consecutive year in Scotland. It will be the first time the programme has taken place in Ayrshire.

Around 200 selected secondary school pupils and college students will start the opportunity of a lifetime on 13 June 2016.

Prestwick Airport, bidding to become the UK's first Spaceport, will host the space event in their Aviator Suite.

The lucky participants will work in teams, aided by mentors, to develop their own space experiments – with the winners having their experiment built, launched to the International Space Station and carried out by an Astronaut in space.

All three council areas in Ayrshire will each put forward 50 pupils for this amazing week-long adventure, while Ayrshire College will select 50 students from its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses.

A major perk for the participants will be the chance to work with Michael Foale CBE. Michael is the most experienced British-born astronaut in the history of human spaceflight and the first Briton to perform a spacewalk.

This exceptional learning experience is like no other, with students learning all about space in the company of NASA leaders. 'Mission Discovery' is proven to enhance students' scientific and technological skillset, while developing innovation and team work.

Primary school pupils will also benefit from Mission Discovery coming to Ayrshire as they will take part in a unique competition to design a 'Mission Patch' for the Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2016 programme.

Every primary school in Ayrshire will submit a design to be judged internally by each of the three local authority areas in Ayrshire. East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire will put those three winning designs forward to a neutral judging panel including ISSET and NASA staff who will select the overall winner.

There is a huge incentive for the pupils to win the first stage of the competition, as each of the three schools to make the final shortlist will receive a visit from Astronaut Micheal Foale!

Former NASA Astronaut, Michael Foale CBE, said "I'm delighted to be working with ISSET again to deliver Mission Discovery to the young people of Ayrshire. I understand this is a unique collaborative partnership between 3 local authorities and Ayrshire College. I highly commend this approach, in essence, a reflection of the International collaborative effort responsible for the creation of the International Space Station. One winning team's experiment will be blasted off into space to the ISS and I encourage all the participants to do their very best and I wish them good luck!"

The Ayrshire College Foundation was set up to advance education by providing financial support for projects and activities carried out and supported by Ayrshire College.

John Rainey, Chair of the Ayrshire College Foundation, said "The Foundation is very pleased to be funding the staging of this really innovative programme in Ayrshire. It promotes the importance of STEM subjects and is an opportunity for 200 students to participate in a truly unique programme. We hope it is the start of many similar educational projects that the Foundation can promote in Ayrshire."

Heather Dunk, Principal of Ayrshire College, said "Mission Discovery is a fantastic way to showcase the importance and value of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, areas which are vital to Ayrshire's economy and a priority for Ayrshire College. Thanks to the generous funding from the Ayrshire College Foundation, 200 young people across Ayrshire will benefit from this once in a lifetime opportunity."

Chris Barber, ISSET Founder and Chief Executive, said "ISSET are really looking forward to Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2016. Mission Discovery is there to encourage the Scientists, Technologists, Engineers, Mathematicians and leaders of the future. With Prestwick Airport's bid as a Spaceport, strong local industrial partners and excellent education providers in the area, there is a real opportunity in the future for Ayrshire's young people. Over the week they will be inspired by our team from NASA and our visiting Astronaut Mike Foale. Mike is an Astronaut legend. He has been on 6 space missions, was the first Briton to walk in space as a NASA Astronaut, spent over 374 days in space and was instrumental in saving the MIR space station and crew in 1997. This is a once in a lifetime learning opportunity."

Councillor Margaret Toner, South Ayrshire Council's Portfolio Holder for Lifelong Learning, said "This is an amazing opportunity for students across Ayrshire and reinforces the importance of STEM subjects in our schools. Everyone taking part will gain invaluable experience, working with top NASA scientists to put theory into practice.

"Ayrshire is already a leader in the aerospace sector and Prestwick is looking to become the site of the UK's first Spaceport so hopefully the skills learned by our students can be put to good use locally."

Councillor Stephanie Primrose, East Ayrshire Council's Spokesperson for Skills and Learning said "As learning events go, the Space School idea is out of this world!

"Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics touch every part of our daily lives. The week-long school is a brilliant concept, setting new horizons for pupils, taking them boldly forward towards new and fascinating frontiers in their STEM studies."

Laura Cook, Education Officer at North Ayrshire Council, said "It will be a great opportunity for our pupils to work on this innovative project which will be both educational and fun. It will build on their existing learning and test their ability to apply their learning to a real life challenging task."

A programme of public events will also run throughout the Mission Discovery Space Week. The Ayrshire College Foundation has launched a new website, http://www.ayrshirecollegefoundation.org.uk/, where more information on the event will soon become available.

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