The NSW Department of Education is currently overhauling the iSTEM elective for 2023. Many exciting new specialised topics are making their way into the syllabus, particularly the new Design for Space Topic. The Hunter Academy of STEM Excellence has been working closely with leaders from the Powerhouse Museum and to develop the unit.

The Design for Space unit will follow the iSTEM Engineering Design Process to guide students through problem-based learning activities focused on current and emerging space research. Students will conduct a scientific investigation of plant growth where they will learn valuable skills in measuring and analysing data, and the importance of reliability, accuracy, and validity in experiments. They will then create a model CubeSat style experiment suitable for the International Space Station (ISS) while learning how to construct circuits and program microcontrollers to measure and record data.

Over a three year commitment by Powerhouse, students will develop their CubeSat experiments with the plan to launch the best design as early as 2024 making it one of the first Australian student designed experiments launched into space. This follows on from their previous successful mission of Australia’s first payload on the ISS, the Cuberider, in 2016. 

The space sector is rapidly expanding with 20,000 jobs estimated to be created by 2030. STEM related jobs are rapidly expanding and skills such as coding, data analysis, and problem solving are vital for many new positions.

Students in Years 9 and 10 across six Western Sydney LGAs (including Arthur Phillip High School and East Hills Girls Technology High School) will participate in The Powerhouse: Future Space program as pilot schools. Additionally, students from Maitland Grossmann High School and Murrumbidgee Regional High School will be involved in a virtual pilot of the program. Students will connect with industry leaders from all aspects of the space sector through virtual and live events. have teamed up to allow students to participate in ground trials for the ExoLab-10 mission capturing carbon dioxide for survival on Earth and space. This mission will run simultaneously on the ISS in near identical equipment, providing students with a unique opportunity to participate in real, life-changing research being conducted.

Find out more about the NSW Academies of STEM Excellence here.

Aaron McGowan

Aaron McGowan is the STEM Project Officer for the Hunter Academy of STEM Excellence. He is a Science Teacher with experience teaching Science 7-10, senior Physics and special education. In his role, he works with schools and teachers to deliver professional learning, develop new curriculum, provide engaging STEM experiences to students, and link industry with schools.