2020: Space Odyssey

24 of Urmston Grammar’s girls, from year 8 to year13, went to NASA Johnson Space Centre in Houston to visit the space centre and take part in workshops at the Space Centre University.

It was an exciting, enjoyable and challenging trip, and – as trip coordinator, B. Motiwala, says – “We were very proud of our students who took part in every activity with enthusiasm and energy.  The whole group got on really well and we all thoroughly enjoyed our week.”

The trip took off with a tour of the Johnson Space Centre at NASA where staff and students saw the control room for all the missions and for astronauts on the ISS. They then split into teams of four with Bermuda High school students to build 2 stage rockets which were launched the next morning.  This was a tense and exhilarating exercise.

The next project was to build a model of a Martian habitat which would support astronauts for 500 days.

After that came some downtime – an evening spent bowling.

The next day the girls built Vedex robots, which could pick up rocks off the surface of Mars, and developed a code for a robot to negotiate a course – another very competitive and very challenging activity. Following this came a viewing of the Saturn 5 rocket which was built to take astronauts to the moon – the size of the rocket was simply awe-inspiring!

Downtime on this evening was spent at the cinema

The trip reached its zenith with a visit to the neutral buoyancy lab which is a deep, vast pool containing life-size models of the international space centre module.  This is where astronauts train for life on the ISS and rehearse space walks.  Following this was a lesson is scuba diving – a real challenge but highly enjoyable.

The trip was brought in to land on the final day as the STEM sisters* graduated from the space centre university having achieved some impressive results in every challenge.

It’s hard for everybody to come back down to earth again.  As Mrs. Motiwala says:”It was a brilliant trip!”


*Stem Sisters exists to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics amongst women, particularly women of colour.

Josie’s Reflections:

My favourite task was the rocket challenge. In this we had to use our own initiative and input our knowledge to assemble our very own working rocket. As a team, we built a 2 stage rocket in order to challenge ourselves further. As a result, our rocket consisted of 2 boosters instead of 1, making the process of building the rocket more complicated than the initial task proposed. As part of the challenge we had to design a rocket that could travel high as well as following the parachute regime needed to land the rocket safely. To do this as a team we had to invent our own shaped fins to ensure the projection of our rocket was straight, as all rockets need to be in order to reach the intended destination. We also had to ensure our parachute had a wide enough hole to allow air resistance to occur whilst drag is also applied, in order to ensure a safe landing for our rocket with no damage to any of the equipment or – crucially the astronauts on board. The next day, after assembling our rockets, we launched them on a test launch pad, where we watched how successful our creations were, and my team came 3rd.! I enjoyed this challenge as the topic of rockets and working on them really interests me as I hope for a future career in astrophysics.

And Lara’s…

The rocket challenge was amazing. It was about working in groups to plan, budget and make a rocket to launch, all while taking weight, height and the landing of it into consideration to make sure that the rocket would go as high as possible. I enjoyed this because it was really fun to work in a group to launch a rocket that we had made ourselves.

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