Guest article by Sarah Snyder
When a friend told me there was an “off-world settlement contest” for kids in Austin, I asked her to repeat herself. Wouldn’t you be intrigued? She went on to explain Austin is home to the Cities in Space kids competition, along with two incredible organizations—STEAMSPACE and New Worlds—all helping lead education surrounding the future of life in space. I was introduced to Holly Melear and Amos Behana, so I could learn more.
Science, Technology, Education, Arts, Math…in Space
Holly Melear is a former school teacher of 20 years, but currently works as Director of STEAMSPACE Education Outreach. STEAMSPACE is an Austin original, founded by Melear in 2015. This local nonprofit focuses on STEAM (Science, Technology, Education, Arts, and Math) within the space industry.
STEAMSPACE hosts a competition, which takes place every year in Austin, called Cities in Space. Amos Behana is Director of Operations at STEAMSPACE, and talking to this duo was out of this world.
Curious to hear more about the kids and teens educational piece, I first asked about the Cities in Space competition. Melear and Behana explained that planning for the kids begins at the beginning of the year, 11 months before the competition itself. Kids and teens from across the United States, and around the world, sign up to form teams of 10 kids average. Then teams begin to plan for their off-world life.
Cities in Space Teams Compete
Teams compete regarding the ideas of emerging technology or by designing their own colony in space, whether that colony is on the moon, Mars, or in free space.
Teams can either present a video or a 3D model of their project, but they are limited to a budget of 150 dollars. Some teams will focus on the physical aspect of settlement design, while other teams focus on topics such as how to establish rules of law in an off-world colony, preserve history, or maintain the arts.
Melear reports that this year approximately 700 kids will participate in the competition. United States-based teams will converge in Austin, while kids from countries such as Pakistan, India, and the Netherlands will join via virtual technology.
Fostering Creative, Empathetic, Collaborative Leaders
If you’re like me, and you’re starting to become jealous of the kids who get to plan and compete, I have good news. New Worlds, also located here in Austin, is an organization of adults that supports STEAMSPACE and its Cities in Space competition. Any adults who want to get involved can check out the Meetup group and reach out to volunteer with STEAMSPACE.
STEAMSPACE Founder Holly Melear speaks to the impact of the organization:
“Cities in Space is Project Based Learning with a STEAM focus, and is designed to teach kids how to be creative, empathetic, collaborative leaders. Through this project, they learn not only about space, but also about needing each other to survive in space. This isn’t about only robotics or only the arts. This is about everything people need to make a thriving community.”
New Worlds Conference
There’s also a New Worlds conference, held on the same weekend in the same location as Cities in Space. Many prominent researchers and scientists from NASA and private entrepreneurial organizations attend to learn, discuss, and explore space settlement.
The event allows the kids attending Cities in Space to meet and interact with researchers, scientists, astronauts, and enthusiasts of space. And employers have the benefit of meeting future employees. Oh, and the best part? New Worlds also hosts a Space Cowboy Ball that’s don’t-miss.
The next Cities in Space will take place Nov. 10, 2017, at Renaissance Austin Hotel. To learn more, visit the STEAMSPACE website.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Do you know a kiddo who loves space and science?
Sarah Snyder is an entrepreneur, writer, public relations strategist, marketing consultant, counselor, and formerly ranked as the 10th strongest woman in the U.S. She is now on a renewed health and wellness journey and can be reached about any of these ventures via email.