An increased interest to explore space sciences has been observed at educational institutions in the UAE, according to educationists.
"The Hope probe, set to launch on Wednesday, is the first Arab mission to Mars. The scientific agenda of the mission and the strategic direction set by the whole project is vast as the UAE turns to space science to build a knowledge-based economy. The nation is going beyond applied space science and technology and is investing in space exploration," said the experts.
"The inspirational work that has been taking place in the UAE related to space travel and exploration has really hit a chord with students. Last school year, students were fortunate to have been given the opportunity to meet the incredible Hazza Al Mansouri," said Lee Hole, head of secondary school, Gems International School - Al Khail (GIS).
"We are working with different community partners to offer enhanced pathways for students. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre is an exciting partnership for GIS and they are further enhancing their programmes in aeronautics in preparation to launch them this coming school year. The UAE mission to Mars is a particular favourite and they hope to have students mirror the project as part of our Centre of Excellence," added Hole.
Flight simulation technology, drone development and piloting are already being taught at the Gems Education's Centre of Excellence for Aviation and Aeronautics. Many other schools in Dubai are also working on curricular and afterschool activities centred around flight and space.
"Watching the UAE's first astronaut in space, inspired students to dream big. Amity International School Abu Dhabi received a UAE astronaut badge from the UAE Space Agency last year. From kindergarten, primary and secondary schools to senior grades, we have incorporated space activities and projects into the curriculum," said Dr Vajahat Hussain, CEO of Amity Education - Middle East.
"During the Secondary Careers Day, a professional from the UAE Space Agency met with students and answered all their questions related to the field and profession," he added.
Varsities focus on UAE students' transition to space industry
While curiosity about space sciences is rising, institutes are customising curriculum to help students harness their interest in space sciences. Assisting students to comfortably transition from university into the aerospace industry, varsities are also investing in state-of-the-art laboratories, with equipment in line with current industry standards.
"A year ago, we built and inaugurated a Satellite Ground Station on campus to teach students how to analyse data, predict the weather, water reservoirs, elevation levels, pollution and population levels. The initiative aims to prepare students for the region's future space endeavours, giving them the resources they need to positively impact aerospace research and pursue careers in the space industry," said Dr Vajahat Hussain, CEO of Amity Education - Middle East.
"Our Aerospace Engineering students also participate in a number of international and local competitions and challenges. The most recent one being the Kibo Robot Programming Challenge organised by the UAE Space Agency and Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, where students developed coding for robots onboard the International Space Station."
Meanwhile, the areas of expertise of the American University of Sharjah's (AUS) faculty members in Astrophysics and Space Science already span topics from Mars and planetary science to stars and globular clusters to high energy radiation, among others.
Dr Nidhal Guessoum, professor of physics at the American University of Sharjah, said: "We are seeing an increasing number of students registering for the Physics major, seeking astrophysics and space faculty for research and participating in workshops and competitions. Just like the Apollo moon-landing programme enticed thousands of Americans to pursue space majors and careers, we trust that the Hope Mars mission will bring hundreds if not thousands of Emirati and Arab youngsters to science and research."
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