EDITOR’s NOTE: The blog, below, is by Nathan Besch & Yannis Kühn, FRSDC 2023 organisers and EU/ISSDC alumni. This is their tale of how they have morphed from competitors, into EU volunteers, into organisers of the French SDC, gaining excellent practical management work-experience along the way. The perfect English is their own: sub-headings were added, to aid anyone reading in their third or fourth language .
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The Nathan & Yannis French Space Design Blog: Episode 1:
How our we’ve shaped, and been shaped by, experiences in SDC competitions since 2020
We are Nathan Besch and Yannis Kühn, the two future organisers of the first French National Space Design Competition (FRSDC). We’re keen to embed the French competition into the SDC universe, so we decided to let you know a bit more about us and our experiences with Space Design Competitions. We’ve been competing participants; we’ve been volunteers and now we’re taking on the role of organisers. Here is the story of our pathway, which might inspire you to volunteer, too.
NATHAN’S TALE: When I was 16, I joined the very first European Space Design Competition. It took place in 2020 and was qualified for the International SDC of the same year. These were eye-opening experiences, that transformed my passion for space into a concrete project for the first time in my life; a project that I got to share with space enthusiasts from all over the world. The fact that both competitions were online made these first experiences homely and comfortable, (albeit that the frustrations of not being in-person at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for the World Finals were, as you could imagine, fully felt.)
Naturally, I signed up for the 2021 edition, at which point Yannis joined me in the European edition.
In 2021, I was elected team President. Thanks to an amazing team, full of brilliant people, we won! That meant a dozen people from our team were chosen to participate in the International SDC including Yannis, myself and our friends Thomas Schlesser and Mathilde Dziechiarz. Of the four of us, only Yannis was able to go in-person and experience the competition at the NASA Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, which I’m sure he’ll be delighted to describe to you in the next paragraph.
YANNIS’ TALE: In spite of COVID19-induced restrictions, I was indeed one of the lucky two Europeans that made it to the US, in-person, that year. It was like a dream come true; not only coming to the US for the first time but to the Kennedy Space Center as well. Doing the competition where the cornerstone of space history was laid, was truly a life-goal opportunity that I’m encouraging every participant to aim to experience at least once. After participating in an online EUSDC. I found that the in-person experience increased my enthusiasm even more: it allowed me to hear the stories of the organisers and to actively engage with them, which definitely inspired me to be part of the SDC organisational team and community of volunteers.
NATHAN & YANNIS COMBINED REFLECTIONS: In addition to making us meet, and work with, incredible people, these experiences taught us extremely valuable skills. There were many skills but big ones included experiences of taking on responsibility, leadership, decision-making, efficient communication in a foreign language and, for some, flying over the Atlantic by yourself and being truly self-responsible.
But of course, we wanted more.
We became volunteers for other countries. Wanting more is why we took part in both the Portuguese National and European 2022 SDCs as team CEOs. We acted as mentors, advising and helping our respective team members in their initial company organisation and in the processes for achieving the conception of base design. Volunteering was a way for us to start giving back our knowledge and experience of SDCs; it definitely was a new and very different perspective from being a participant competitor.
We saw behind-the-scenes. Our roles as volunteers put us in a different position inside the SDC world: we sometimes acted as bridges between the organisers and the students. It meant we were very close to, and understood, both parties. This allowed us to gain precious behind-the-scenes experience that showed us a high-level, big-picture of a Space Design Competition that we had never imagined before.
We started looking at the French scene: After a year of volunteering and seeing a couple of National Competitions springing up to life, we thought that it would be an interesting idea to introduce the SDC concept in our home country: France. It feels like our country is ripe to have scientific high school competitions that are not purely academic but based on technical problems that can/will be found in the industry. Moreover, the French Space Agency (CNES) is the main contributor to the European Space Agency, and we feel it is about time space sciences play a larger role in our scientific education.
We have now created a French opportunity: We are both incredibly grateful to be able to bring our experience in SDCs to practice in organising the first French Space Design Competition (FRSDC) with the SSEF, and it just feels right to give back everything we’ve learned these last few years to an enthusiastic audience of “lycéens”. Our long-term goal would be to democratise as much as possible the SDC concept in our country and hopefully to make it a reference to take part in these competitions. As for now, we are very happy to expose students to space sciences as much as possible and to stir their passion the best we can.
End of Blog: authored by Nathan Besch & Yannis Kühn, FRSDC 2023 organisers and EU/ISSDC alumni .
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