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Youth for Space Challenge - ODYSSEUS II

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Odysseus II (Youth for Space Challenge - ODYSSEUS II)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2016-12-31

The Youth for Space Challenge - ODYSSEUS II project ( aims to inspire young people for engaging them in space exploration, through a series of educational activities, which are combining scientific learning with hands-on experiences. Through the organization of a fun oriented educational contest, which is organized in multi rounds and which will target all pupils and students in Europe and beyond, the project will foster the development of qualified scientists, engineers and technicians in areas relevant to the priorities of the EU space policy.
An important objective of the project is to involve national educational authorities and to engage with space industries and many science centres and space agencies across Europe on the exchange of experiences and knowledge on learning programmes about space exploration. Participation in the Odysseus II contest is used as a good benchmark and indicator of how well space science and technology is accepted and integrated into the curriculum of different educational systems across the EU.
Furthermore, focusing in the creativity of young minds, the Odysseus II contest seeks to foster the orientation of promising young pupils and students and to connect them with science teachers, experts and space industry professionals in a unique international educational network. In this context the project is creating an extensive network of volunteer mentors, educational agencies, academic institutions and space industries, who foster young pupils’ and students’ interest on space science and assist with the preparation of projects and the organization of local events introducing space exploration to youth and supporting societal involvement in space technology and science.
The structure of the Odysseus II contest also strives to intensify international cooperation in promoting space science and technology among young people and to support the objective of international cooperation in space exploration. The project also aims to promote the winners and the top students and pupils as an inspiration for their peers and as role models of champions who have succeeded at international level.
During the first two years of implementation the Odysseus II project managed to create a unique identity and intensive presence at the educational community of young people, as a mean to communicate and invite participation to the Odysseus II Contest.
The Odysseus II project succeeded to set-up the educational and operational Framework of the Odysseus II Contest. Practically, the Odysseus II consortium designed and configured the overall Contest and its components at local, regional and international level, to define the themes and categories that the students and pupils have to compete in, to specify the settings and rules of the Contest and to determine the assessment process and evaluation criteria. Also, the project team developed, configured and tested all the necessary tools for running the contest and in particular the on-line platform for the submission, evaluation and display of entries / projects and presentations. The educational and operational Framework of the Odysseus II Contest mapped all activities that should be performed to implement the Contest successfully, taking into account the pedagogic, scientific and social aspects of its organization. More specifically, the scope of each stage of the contest was defined, the role of stakeholders and external contributors (i.e. mentors, teachers, evaluators, experts, space industry etc.) was defined and communicated t them, each specific component of the contest was linked with similar educational initiatives, which run at national or international level within the same period, the timeframe and sequence of the different stages was set and their prerequisites and expected results were clarified. The Contest activities were articulated in such a way that they interrelated the students and teachers with the “surrounding” community, the space industry and the various stakeholders in the field of space with the aim to create a hub for sharing knowledge and best practices on engaging young people in space science and technology.
The actual implementation of the Odysseus II contest, by concluding on the field the Cycle I, at all three stages; national, regional and international, for the three categories of contestants; Skywalkers, Pioneers, Explorers.
An extensive network of volunteer mentors (i.e teachers, space industry professionals and experts), educational agencies, academic institutions and space related industries and a network of volunteer evaluators were activated and supported the implementation of the contest.
The future Europe as is envisaged, could never be a reality without inspiring the new generations to science conquer and scientific education. Therefore, it is an imperative to cultivate and constantly monitor the eagerness of young people to become science aware at first and following a scientific career after secondary school; and when follow a scientific career seek excellence in their work.
In the last 20 years, Europe has become a technology pioneer through applications such as the Earth Observation and Galileo. Europe has invested in the exploration of space with cost-effective missions and supported collaborative initiatives with the European Space Agency securing its strategic role in this domain. Missions to Mars and similar exciting ventures continue to be an inspiration to many young Europeans. Studies have shown that, when asked if they would like to work in science and engineering, a majority of young people across Europe say ‘no’ – particularly girls and young women. Interestingly, the same young Europeans say ‘yes’ when asked if they are interested in ‘rockets, satellites and space travel’ . Space activities are an excellent way to grab the attention of the scientific thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. A step further, the Odysseus II Context is supporting learning-best done in context, by an active learner through collaboration; engaging users to real experiments and projects and communicating with other pupils/students provides a powerful way for pupils/students to become meaningfully involved in the learning process. In this way, the dimension of self-expression and collaboration between pupils/students, mentors and researchers will be introduced, something that is missing in science education.
The Odysseus II project aims to create a huge impact on four major issues:
a. Create awareness and expand the boundaries of knowledge of young pupils and students about space science and technology, providing them with the opportunity to use experimental methods and become aware of a whole new world of scientific excellence
b. Enrich the curriculum by promoting a hands-on science approach that shows to students that space is fun, and relevant to everyone and inspire and encourage them to follow a career in space
c. Organise and engage a community of mentors (volunteer teachers and experts) on space by mobilising them during the organisation of Odysseus II Contest in each country and at European-wide level
d. Encourage and formalize connections between schools / universities and space industries