Edenvale High School students Aiden Mardon and Reabetswe Mphaho aim for the stars after attending the Future African Space Explorer Academy of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) conference.
Held between 27 and 29 April in Pretoria, the two Grade 11 learners attended the conference as FASESA Ambassadors. They were the only ambassadors to represent the academy at the conference.
The conference was organized to allow teachers, administrators, education leaders and learners to learn about space exploration in the curriculum and among themselves.
It aimed to provide teachers and learners with a better insight and understanding of what the space sector is and the career opportunities it offers.
When many people think of space exploration, many think that the only career in the field is as an astronaut.
However, this is not the case. Learners studying computer science, agronomy, biology, chemistry, nutrition, geography, medicine, law, management, communications, electronics, and physics could find careers in exploration spatial.
At the conference, space education experts shared new teaching methodologies with African institutions while building lasting relationships.
Reabetswe said the opportunity to become an ambassador arose after one of his teachers, Ms Smith, uploaded information about the conference to the school’s Google classroom.
Reabetswe also thanked Ms Drake for always taking the time to encourage his interest in space and answering the questions he presented to her.
On his birthday, Reabetswe saw the opportunity was available and he contacted Sean Jacobs, the director and space advocate for FASESA, to attend the conference.
“Sean contacted me and offered me the position of ambassador for FASESA and I wanted my friend Aiden to be an ambassador as well because he is also interested in space.”
Invited as ambassadors, the duo said they learned a lot about the STEM program that FASESA aims to use to increase interest and engagement in space exploration.
“For me, being able to attend the conference meant I had a future in space exploration,” Reabetswe said.
“A lot of people don’t have that kind of opportunity.”
Likewise, Aiden said attending the conference was a real opportunity.
“I think it was mostly luck, to be honest, but I think Reabetswe and I have the opportunity to get into the space environment and learn more about theoretical thinking.”
Talking about their passion for space exploration, Reabetswe said his interest was piqued when he was still in kindergarten.
He said as his teachers explained the different careers he learned about as astronauts.
“I couldn’t believe that a person could be out there in space, not on this planet. At the time, I didn’t know there were different countries.
As he grew, Reabetswe continued to read space books, learning all he could about solar systems, stars, and planets.
Aiden said his interest in space grew a year ago by watching videos on YouTube.
“There’s a game called Kerbal Space Program and a Youtuber, Matt Lowne, that I watch who got me interested in rockets and designs,” Aiden said.
“He used to talk about these complicated words and equations and I eventually studied the basics of rocket engines and how rockets work.”
Although the conference is open to all, Ambassadors Reabetswe and Aiden will continue to work with the academy in the near future.
As a learner interested in space exploration, Reabetswe has many questions regarding space.
“During the lecture, I had a platform to ask a lot of questions because usually in school you can’t ask a lot of questions because they are off topic of the current work,” Reabetswe said.
“For me, the conference was thought-provoking,” Aiden said.
“It highlighted that there are plenty of jobs available at NASA and there are plenty of people who can work at NASA who have normal jobs now. The conference helped me see that anything is possible.
Before attending the conference, Aiden and Reabetswe wanted to study in the field of space exploration.
“When I grow up, I hope to be a theoretical physicist like great people like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking who changed physics and created formulas to explain the universe,” Reabetswe said.
“I want to look at the smallest molecules and the largest galaxies and hopefully answer all the questions people have.”
Like his friend Aiden also hopes to study in the field of space exploration but would like to focus on rockets and their propulsion systems.
“I plan to pursue a career as a thruster development engineer and would like to work for SpaceX,” Aiden said.
“The spacecraft I would like to work on will hopefully send humans to Mars in two years, so if I could work on this spacecraft, it would be pretty cool to be able to say that I helped send people on Mars.”
Along with working towards their career goals, Aiden and Reabetswe are also looking for internships and job shadowing opportunities.
For more information on FASESA, contact Anne on 078 955 6711.