Andy Thomas Space Foundation Delivers Inclusive Space Education Program

In 2022, Makers Empire partnered again with The Andy Thomas Space Foundation (ATSF) on its inaugural Inclusion Initiative pilot program, supported by the Australian Space Agency, Maras Foundation and SmartSat CRC. 

Part of the ATSF Education Fund 2022, the Inclusion Initiative offers engaging and accessible education opportunities designed specifically for students and young people living with a disability.

“This pilot program, known as ‘The Aurora Program’, aims to inspire young generations living with a disability by the wonder of space, whilst raising funds to provide appropriate support and encouragement for such individuals working in or wishing to work in the space sector,” says ATSF CEO, Nicola Sasanelli.

The eight schools participating in the 2022 pilot were Compass Catholic Community, Thomas More College, Modbury Special School, Craigmore High School Disability Unit, Findon High School Disability Unit, Roma Mitchell Secondary College Disability Unit, Springbank Secondary College Disability Unit and Bowden Brompton Community School.

The pilot project included students and students recognised to be living with disabilities or identified factors of educational disadvantage. Project participants also included students living with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, ADHD, mental health conditions, and other learning disabilities.

Students and young people participating in the plot project were aged from 13 to 25 years. Special schools, alternative education facilities, and schools with disability units were invited to participate in the pilot project and school groups with significant representation of students and young people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder were given priority during the selection process.


The Aurora Program

During August and September 2022, students from the eight schools visited the Australian Space Discovery Centre. The visits were held as private sessions without other school groups or members of the public in attendance. Adaptations were made to accommodate the needs of each group including access to wheelchair-accessible parking, rearrangement of exhibits to allow easier access, and lower volume levels for exhibits featuring sounds.

The sessions were individualised for each group and included a Fact and Fiction session led by the centre’s Space Communicators, time to explore the galleries with input from the Space Communicators, viewing of the Jarli film, about an Australian girl who is headed for the stars.


Makers Empire’s Director of Learning introduced the Aurora Mission to the students and then students were encouraged to take photographs (or be supported to take photographs) of objects that inspired them at the centre.

During September and October 2022, Makers Empire’s Director of Learning and Hardware Specialist visited each school to lead a 3D design and printing workshop. Each workshop was tailored to meet the needs of students and teachers, and included:

  • An introduction to Makers Empire’s 3D modelling software
  • Learning to design space-themed models
  • Students creating 3D designs in response to the Aurora Mission and using the photographs taken at the Australian Space Discovery Centre and inspiration.
  • An introduction to 3D printing
  • 3D printer training including installation, operation, and troubleshooting.

During October 2022, students continued to design, and 3D print their models with the help of their teachers and support staff. Makers Empire offered support with using the 3D modelling software and 3D printers where needed and teachers were invited to an online check-in session to share ideas, ask questions and support each other with the project experience.

Students each completed a template, with support, to describe their 3D models, and to explain how their model related to the Aurora Mission and their own space learning. Students’ designs were 3D printed at each school by teachers and delivered to the Australian Space Discovery Centre in time for a public exhibition in the Endeavour Room at the Australian Space Discovery Centre. exhibition in November.


Feedback from Teachers

Committed to Making Space a Place for All

The Aurora program is well suited to contribute to the Australian Space Agency’s strategy, specifically touching on its fourth pillar, Inspire.

“The Australian Space Agency is committed to inspiring the nation to build a future space workforce that is diverse and provides career opportunities for all Australians,” said Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency.

“The Inclusion Initiative Pilot Program will provide important learnings to make the space industry more accessible, aligning with the ‘Agency’s ‘Inclusive’ value, which is focused on embracing our differences and drawing strength from diversity.”

The ATSF promotes and inspires students through the idea that space is for all. Independent of backgrounds, skillsets, qualifications, whilst study is important, so too is your determination and passion for the industry.

Mr Maras from the Maras Foundation said, “there are currently 1 in 6 Australians living with a disability, including Autism, which affects 1 in 70 Australians. We have a duty to develop a supportive and empowering environment to promote inclusion and facilitate the next generations growth in a new workforce’.

Prof Andy Koronios, CEO of SmartSat CRC said “as one of the most important university-industry collaborations
in the country, SmartSat is dedicated to be supporting the growth of the industry as well as increase Australia’s space workforce. This includes Australians living with a disability of whom only 17% hold a Bachelor’s degree.”

The Andy Thomas Space Foundation, alongside supporting partners, aim to develop this initiative to a national level through the support of philanthropic and government contributions, further building the offering of the 2023 Andy Thomas Space Foundation Education Fund.

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