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Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon
Buzz Aldrin on the Moon. Image credit: NASA

Dr Alconcel, a spacecraft engineer and aerospace engineering lecturer, worked with Dr Chris Hamlett of the Discover Materials network and Han Zhang, a materials scientist at Queen Mary University of London, to develop the “Let’s Move to the Moon!” project, aimed at children aged 11-14.

The project, which is funded by the UK Space Agency and Henry Royce Institute, is built around a challenge suitcase, filled with materials and equipment required for a journey to the moon.

By exploring the contents of the suitcase, participants will learn how to get to the Moon, decide what they’ll going to take with them, and discover what they can make when they’re there. Classes must complete all the missions to reap the rewards. Each of the tasks or “Missions” they must complete will lead them to their final goal: launching a 3D-printed rocket (to the Moon)! Clues and videos are provided to help them complete the project.

Before the start of a mission, a Discover Materials ambassador will travel to the school to deliver the suitcase. Students have 6-8 weeks to work their way through the missions with the help of their teachers and by online workshops with ambassadors. When they’ve completed their missions, they’ll have another visit from an ambassador, who will distribute rewards, collect feedback on what they have learned, and return the suitcase to their institution.

All the missions are named for women who have made significant contributions to science, technology, engineering, art, and maths (STEAM). The project’s informative videos and printed booklet will include portraits and biographies of them.

I’m very excited to have the opportunity to bring together three of my favourite topics into one project: Space, Materials Engineering, and Women in STEAM. I’m hopeful that this project will inspire a new generation of students to study the subjects, and eventually work in the fields, that will help us to explore our solar system in a safe and sustainable way.

Dr Leah-Nani Alconcel, spacecraft engineer and Aerospace Engineering course lecturer in the School of Metallurgy and Materials

Each of the institutions in the Discover Materials network will oversee distributing a suitcase, allowing the team to reach students throughout the UK. These are: The University of Cambridge, the University of Birmingham, Imperial College London, Loughborough University, The University of Manchester, The University of Oxford, Queen Mary University of London, University of Sheffield, and Swansea University.

The project is funded by a UK Space Agency grant from the “Space for All 2022” scheme and has additional financial support from the Henry Royce Institute. It runs from May 2022 through March 2023.