UAE to host space programmes to inspire new generation of scientists

Emirates Mars Mission is running a series of webinars, training programmes and space camps between November and January

A series of space-related activities will be held across the UAE for the next three months to get pupils and students excited about the galaxies beyond the stars.

The Generation Hope Initiatives, organised by the UAE Space Agency and Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, aim to foster a new generation of space enthusiasts, future academics and engineers.

The initiatives include competitions, webinars, science camps and programmes for pupils, academics and teachers.

They begin next month with Hope's Science Journey webinars that will teach participants about the UAE's Mars mission. The Hope probe, launched from Japan in July is currently en route to the Red Planet, where it will gather data for scientific research.

Two Hope Camps will be held over December and January. The first will last five days and will invite pupils aged 12 to 18 to learn about space and the Mars mission.

The second, two-day camp will be more specialised and invite distinguished undergraduates studying stem subjects to take part. The Emirates Mars Mission Team will share their expertise and provide insights about the mission.

Reaching Mars is not the final goal, but it's the means for us to build a culture built on research, exploration, and innovation

“Inspiring youth and increasing their interest in the space sector is one of the most important strategic objectives of the Emirates Mars Mission," said Noora Al Rafi, deputy project manager of strategic planning for the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM).

"It comes as part of the efforts to contribute to the national diversified economy – one that is built on knowledge and innovation."

The annual Teacher Ambassador Programme, in its sixth year, will also be held next month.

Stem teachers from schools across the country will be trained to serve as ambassadors at EMM educational initiatives. They will be given material to educate and train a new generation of space scientists and engineers.

The Newton Stem Challenge, a competition for teachers, will be held in December. It will challenge teachers to design a game, experiment or activity to explain Newton’s laws of motion based on their current curriculum learning objectives.

"Reaching Mars is not the final goal, but it’s the means for us to build a culture built on research, exploration, and innovation," said Omran Sharaf, project director of the mission.

"At the same time, these outreach programmes provide the mission team with an opportunity to share its knowledge and experience with the next generation."

Next summer, Emirati students specialising in space can take part in the Research Experience of Undergraduates Programme, which will allow them to be mentored by members of the Mars mission team and gain practical and research-based experience at distinguished space science facilities in the UAE and abroad.

“Five years ago there was little known of jobs in the space sector. Now the thinking has changed. Now there is a path,” said Hessa Al Matrooshi, science deputy project manager.

“Developing scientific capabilities in the UAE is an important pillar for the UAE government’s vision as encourage an environment that motivates innovation and scientific research and fosters a new generation of Emirati scientists, researchers and academics."

Moza Alsharif, Emirates Mars Mission Science Initiatives Coordinator, said there had been a significant increase in interest towards studying space among students since the UAE began its space activities.

“We have noticed that there is a change in culture where it was very minimal in the early days but now you see many students entering confidently because they know they is something at the end of the road and you see parents who are less hesitant that their children are entering this field,” she said.

Since the Research Experience of Undergraduates Programme began in 2015, the number of students has steadily increased with more than100,000 students and teachers having now taken part in these community outreach initiatives.

"Overall, the programme has affected dozens of students and some changed their career path to pursue space science research as a career. We look forward to more success stories as a result of this programme,” said Ms Alsharif.