Makers Empire Joins Forces with Andy Thomas Space Foundation for Australia-First School Pilot

The Andy Thomas Space Foundation (ATSF) and Makers Empire today announce an Australia-first pilot program for primary schools, to deliver education in awareness of space career opportunities.

As a precursor to a planned national roll-out, the program will be trialled in nine South Australian (SA) schools. The schools are: Clovelly Park Primary School, Gilles Street Primary School, Ascot Park Primary School, Mercedes College, Tenison Woods Catholic  School, Concordia College, Streaky Bay Area School, Port Broughton Area School and Ardrosson Area School.

The primary schools program, budgeted at $45,000, follows the announcement by the Foundation in March of scholarships at secondary, tertiary and post-graduate levels. Scholarships, with a total value of $150,000, are offered through the ATSF Education Fund, with the support of ATSF’s sponsors and the SA Government.

That announcement was the first step in the fulfilment of the Foundation’s vision and objectives.

The new program, for primary schools, will be delivered in terms 3 & 4 this year. It will be a space-themed version of Makers Empire’s Learning by Design course, involving between two and five teachers from each of the participating schools. They will attend a professional development course at Lot Fourteen and design a space education unit for students. The program will culminate in a student-led expo-style Showcase Day on November 22 at the Australian Space Discovery Centre.

Minister for Education John Gardner said this is an exciting opportunity for students. “These young South Australians are part of a generation that will help build our growing space industry and this program will inspire them to shoot for the stars,” said Minister Gardner.

“South Australia is the epicentre of the nation’s space industry, so we are perfectly placed to offer this Australian-first pilot program and encourage children to consider a future that’s out of this world.”

ATSF Chairman Michael Davis AO is delighted with the Foundation’s continuing development of education and awareness programs. “This initiative with Makers Empire brings primary schools into the Foundation’s orbit and it’s an ideal fit with our reason for being which, initially, is about creating educational opportunities and pathways into space-related careers,” he says.

ATSF CEO Nicola Sasanelli AM says the primary schools program is another step towards stretching the Foundation’s influence across the educational spectrum. “In the next weeks we expect to be in a position to name the finalists in the $45,000 High Schools Challenge program, which we announced in March and another initiative is in the pipeline and will be revealed soon. We are also delighted to support an emerging local tech start-up in its endeavours”.

Makers Empire CEO Jon Soong says his company is delighted to be partnering with the ATSF on the space program for primary schools. “Together, we’ll inspire young Australian students with dreams of the stars.”

The nine South Australian schools in this year’s pilot program will be confirmed shortly.

About Andy Thomas AO, Founding Patron

Andrew Thomas received a Bachelor of Engineering Degree in Mechanical Engineering, with First Class Honours, from the University of Adelaide, South Australia, in 1973, and a Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Adelaide, South Australia, in 1978.

After a career as a Research Scientist in the United States with Lockheed Martin he was selected by NASA and following one year of training, he was appointed a member of the NASA astronaut corps in 1993.

In June 1995, he was appointed payload commander for the shuttle mission STS-77 and flew his first flight in space on Endeavour in May 1996. He next trained at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia in preparation for a long-duration flight. In 1998, he served as Board Engineer 2 aboard the Russian Space Station Mir for 130 days.

His third mission was in March, 2001 in shuttle mission STS-102 on board Discovery. From August 2001 to November 2003, he served as Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA Johnson in Houston.

His fourth space flight was on Discovery STS-114 from 26 July to August 9, 2005. He has logged more than 177 days in space. He retired from NASA in February 2014.

He has been a leading advocate for the development of the Australian space sector and his contributions in Australia have been recognised with awards which include Officer of the Order of Australia and Life Membership of the Space Industry Association of Australia.

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