A former NASA astronaut, the Minister of Education and the Canadian High Commissioner were among several high-profile voices to praise Northgate College at the award ceremony for the global Cubes in Space programme.
Cubes in Space is an international contest in which teams of secondary school students compete by developing science, technology, engineering or mathematics-based (STEM) experiments for launch into space. NorthGate College’s T&T-based campus won the top prize for its experiment design.
Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh applauded the school’s students, teachers, principal and parents “for encouraging our students to move into the realm of STEM education”, adding that said STEM was also a strong point of focus for his ministry.
Seventeen NorthGate College students received awards personally handed out by the former US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut Dr Robert Crouch at the ceremony, which was hosted at the High Commissioner's residence in Fairways, Maraval on September 26.
“I understand that your design was quite spectacular,” High Commissioner Gérard Latullipe said. “To impress NASA astronauts really speaks volumes about your innovation.”
Each student got a signed lithograph from Crouch, who delivered the keynote address. The NASA scientist said the students’ experiment was “totally unique”. He commended them for doing the “the amount of hard work” needed to research and develop the idea behind the proposal, and lauded their persistence in designing and building the experiment, which was eventually submitted to NASA for space launch.
The experiment, which sought to measure how much electricity is generated by an object moving through the ionosphere, fit into a cube about the size of a baby's fist.
But NorthGate College Director Yolande La Pierre said the real value harvested from the exercise went far beyond the science experiment itself.
“The lasting lesson from Cubes in Space 2014 is the value of helping our children to be critical thinkers and to push past the boundaries of our geographic limitations. These children have become better students and indeed better persons as a result of the hard work, diligence and thoroughness they had to develop to emerge as winners and they did this as a team.”
Robert Sowah, founder of iDoodleSoftware, the Canadian company behind the global contest, congratulated La Pierre and her staff for distinguishing T&T among a field of global competitors, pointing out that NorthGate’s winning submission was “chosen from among hundreds around the world”.
The level of complexity in the experiment made it stand out from every other entry, said Chief Education Officer of idoodleSoftware, Amber Agee Dee-Hart, who founded the Cubes in Space initiative.
Dee-Hart showed the experiment to “several NASA scientists and they were blown away by the complexity of thought, the eloquence with which they spoke in the presentation video that they submitted.”
“It was quite exceptional,” she said.
The Cubes In Space program is a partnership between idoodlesoftware, Rubik Learning Initiative, the Colorado Space Grant Consortium’s RockSat-C program and is supported by the Sounding Rocket Program Office at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Bevil Wooding, speaking on behalf of founder and chairman of NorthGate College Dr Noel Woodroffe, described NorthGate's achievement as "a testament to the potential that exists in all our young people".
"This is also a powerful reminder of the importance of providing our youth with leadership examples and a nurturing, values-based environment to inspire them to achieve their very best,” Wooding said. The prizegiving doubled as the global launch of the 2015 Cubes in Space programme, which targets 11- to 14-year-old students.
The award ceremony was held in conjunction with the launch of BrightPath Foundation’s TechLink, a science and technology education event, held on September 27 at the Cipriani College of Labour and Cooperative Studies, Valsayn.