Author: <span>Kareem Lewis</span>

Sample_RFP_Rectangle Explainers

#7: Request for Proposal (RFP) – Part 2/3

Word count & reading time: (1100 words – 10 minutes)

Welcome back to the Space Design Competitions – unique, impactful, and exhilarating space STEAM-a-thon events that get you conceptually designing space habitats for up to 80 years in the future… 

The last article introduced the Request for Proposal (RFP), an industrial-style document outlining the design requirements set by the fictional client (The Foundation Society) for each competing team (company) to fulfil. We will continue to use the acronym “RFP”.

This is the second blog of the 3-part series:

  1. What is an RFP? What does it include, and how does it look in the SDC?
  2. How do you read the RFP? What are the trigger words, and what is the client really asking for?
  3. What are the strategies for tackling an RFP? How do you split the behemoth task, and how can you manage the design process?

This article will provide a deeper read into the content of the RFP, and guide participants through understanding what is being asked of you.

A sample RFP is provided in the Competition Resources section of this website and will be used as the main reference for the explanations to follow.

A reminder: fulfilling the design requirements of the RFP is the central objective of any SDC. It is essentially a task list of the entire event and hence the most important document you will be given (so please read it!!). Two of the biggest challenges the RFP poses for all participants (new and returning) is the length and the complexity of the document. 

If you have not yet seen it, take a minute to watch this video which reviews 14 years of  UKSDC events. The video gives a great overview of what we’re all about.

What was the RFP structure again?

  1. Introduction of the space habitat that you are challenged to design
  2. Basic Requirements that the habitat must adhere to across all phases of the design process
  3. Statement of Work outlining specific design requirements split into the company departments/roles, namely:
    1. Structural Engineering
    2. Operations Engineering
    3. Human Engineering
    4. Automation Engineering
    5. Schedule & Cost
  4. Evaluation Standards listing the assessment criteria that will be used by the client during the final presentations
  5. Addendum stating any periphery information that is pertinent to the overall design project

Understanding the RFP

In the last article, I mentioned that the most important thing to do when you receive the RFP is to read it carefully. I repeat myself because if you appropriately fulfil each RFP requirement to the stated needs of the client, your company wins the competition. Simple. 

Yet, not a single company in the 14-year history of the competition has ever truly achieved this. Why? It is because participants either do not completely understand what the RFP is asking of them, or they choose to overlook specific requests as it does not fit their proposed solutions. 

The single most important thing for any participant is to read the RFP. Under time constraints, it can prove stressful and overwhelming to analyse every detail of this long and complex document, but you must

Doing this as best you can the first time results in a deeper understanding of the exact tasks at hand and allows you to get a firm grip on the following::

  • Possible solutions to RFP points — Does this solution answer the requirement? Does it fit the client’s needs? Is it scientifically sound?
  • Overlap between departments — Who is needed to fulfil this task? Who needs to know about this solution? Have we informed finance of the cost?
  • Optimal flow of work efforts — In what order shall we tackle it? How are we going to manage these tasks?

Although the bigger-picture responsibilities rest with the management team (President, VPs, and HoDs), every individual within the company needs to be acutely aware of how their work influences and affects the work of others. Do not be fooled to think otherwise; the RFP is purposefully designed this way.

Ultimately, the design proposal is a group effort that requires constant communication and collaboration.

Trigger Words

In every RFP section, there are always one or more action verbs. They are easy to identify:

  • Draw a community layout map consisting of…
  • Specify the number of crew members allocated to…
  • State the gravitational field range required for…
  • Describe how you will provide breathable air to…
  • Justify how you will accommodate for the…
  • Detail the habitat’s health & safety protocols in the event of…

Each action verb demands a specific response that the client wants to receive during the final presentation. A non-exhaustive list of the action verbs and their definition can be found below, pulled from previous RFPs.

  • Draw — produce a hand-sketched or computer generated diagram
  • Specify — clearly define or identify; include the results of specific design decisions made and justified as appropriate
  • Indicate — same as ‘specify’, but requiring less precision
  • State — express definitely or clearly in speech or writing
  • Describe — include a visual or textual summary to clearly explain compliance to a requirement
  • Outline — similar to ‘describe’ but requiring more holistic approach to the whole topic
  • Explain — make clear to someone by describing in more detail or revealing relevant facts
  • Detail — same as ‘describe’ but requiring information pertinent to even the lowest level of the subject
  • Design — do or plan something with a specific purpose in mind
  • Show — provide a visual representation adequate to clearly explain a requested item. 
  • Show how — support explanations, either visually or textually, of how a requirement is fulfilled. 
  • Justify — provide on-slide reasons for decisions made. 

As a practice task, download the Sample RFP and highlight the action verbs. On a separate sheet, create a crude list of tasks, trimming away the detail found in the RFP. This should produce a clearer list of tasks resembling something similar to what is listed at the beginning of this section.

Final Remarks

If you do the practice task suggested above, it should be clear what the list of tasks are; and there are many. Luckily, you’re not alone. Remember, it’s a group effort.

But how should you tackle them? Who should do what? Is there an optimal strategy? What is best practice?

These are all questions that will be answered in the last article in the 3-part series on RFPs.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more.

External Links

  • Want to get involved in this rapidly growing network of space education enthusiasts? Register your interest to volunteer here: eusdc.org/volunteer-registration
  • Want to follow the news and events in the European context? Check out the EUSDC website here: eusdc.org
  • Want to find out more about the organising charity? Check out the SSEF website here: ssef.org.uk
Sample_RFP_Rectangle Explainers

#6: Request for Proposal (RFP) – Part 1/3

Word count & reading time: (1300 words – 10 minutes)

Welcome back to the Space Design Competitions – unique, impactful, and exhilarating space STEAM-a-thon events that get you conceptually designing space habitats for up to 80 years in the future… 

The last article elaborated on the details of Prime and Subcontractors, a challenging concept for most first-time participants. As one of the prime contractors competing to win the contract to build the Foundation Society’s desired habitat, where can you find the actual design requirements? What will you spend your time designing? What does the Foundation Society really want? This is where the Request for Proposal (RFP) comes in. We will use the acronym “RFP” henceforth.

Fulfilling the design requirements of the RFP is the central objective of any SDC. It is essentially a task list of the entire event and hence the most important document you will be given (so please read it!!). Two of the biggest challenges the RFP poses for all participants (new and returning) is the length and the complexity of the document. 

The first thing you will notice is that the RFP spans 3-5 pages of nothing but text. Upon reading it, you will then notice that a lot of the design requirements overlap across departments and use fairly advanced language and terminology. Most frustratingly, perhaps, is that the RFP does not allude to any clear strategy for tackling it. Well, guess what? That’s on purpose. That may be harsh, but welcome to life in industry! 

A large part of your initial task with the SDC is to break down the RFP into its tasks, to delegate the tasks amongst the company and to create an execution  strategy.. Discussing the entire scope of the RFP would result in a lengthy blog post, so I have decided to split the discussion into a 3-part series as listed below.

  1. What is an RFP? What does it include, and how does it look in the SDC?
  2. How do you read the RFP? What are the trigger words, and what is the client really asking for?
  3. What are the strategies for tackling an RFP? How do you split the behemoth task, and how can you manage the design process?

This article will provide an overview, go into the definition and structure of an RFP and explain how it will look in any SDC.

If you have not yet seen it, take a minute to watch this video which reviews 14 years of  UKSDC events. The video gives a great overview of what we’re all about.

What is a Request for Proposal?

A commonplace document in industrial settings, the RFP is the keystone document communicating the client’s desires to the prime contractors.

A request for proposal (RFP) is a business document that announces a project, describes it, and solicits bids from qualified contractors to complete it.

Essentially, it’s a document the client uses to state what they would like in a desired project. As the client is not always capable of performing the work required, they publicise the project in hopes that qualified contractors put forward a bid. This bid is often in the form of a conceptual design proposal that they think best fits the client’s needs. After multiple bids have been put forward, the client chooses which is the most suitable bid for the project and awards the winning company the contract. This is the basis of the Space Design Competitions

Most organisations in industry prefer to launch their projects using RFPs, and many governments use them. When using an RFP, the entity requesting the bids (the client) is responsible for evaluating the feasibility of the bids submitted, the financial health of the bidding companies, and each bidder‘s ability to undertake the project. The SDCs simulate this setting by requiring each prime contractor to present their work to the client who will then evaluate the bids. Cool, huh?

If you haven’t quite understood the idea of an RFP yet, I encourage you to re-read the above and perhaps check out real-life examples. Here is an article showing NASA as the client with bids coming from industry members, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, Relativity Space, and Nanoracks.

What does a typical RFP include?

Although there is no one accepted standardised form for an RFP, the key elements of an RFP are listed below. The ones marked with an asterisk (*) are included in a typical RFP found in the SDC.

  • *Project description
  • Company description
  • *Basic requirements of the project
  • *Definition of specific content, design, and functionality of the project
  • *Financial requirements
  • *Timeline & scope of the project
  • *Evaluation standards

The only thing omitted in the context of the SDC is the profile of the client company, the Foundation Society, which can instead be found on the SDC website. As you can see, the RFPs in the competitions are highly representative of the industrial norms. This prepares participants for the reality of the challenges and joys faced in the space sector, as well as in many other industries.

What does the RFP look like in the SDC?

Each SDC event will use a unique RFP to assure novel content, excitement and a level playing field for new and returning participants. A sample RFP is provided in Competition Resources and will be used as the main reference for the explanation to follow.

The way the RFP is structured within the SDC is representative of the roles and responsibilities that are necessary to design a space habitat. Namely, those of the company (prime contractor) as a whole and those of the individual departments within it, as follows:

  1. Introduction of the space habitat that you are challenged to design
  2. Basic Requirements that the habitat must adhere to across all phases of the design process
  3. Statement of Work outlining specific design requirements split into the company departments/roles, namely:
    1. Structural Engineering
    2. Operations Engineering
    3. Human Engineering
    4. Automation Engineering
    5. Schedule & Cost
  4. Evaluation Standards listing the assessment criteria that will be used by the client during the final presentations
  5. Addendum stating any periphery information that is pertinent to the overall design project

Although the content of each RFP changes at each competition, the structure is always the same. The most important thing to do when you receive the RFP is to read it carefully. If you fulfil each requirement, you win the competition. It really is that simple, but I promise you it is not easy!

For now, you can take a breather and celebrate the fact that you are another step closer to being an SDC connaisseur!

Final Remarks

The notion of contractors is of fundamental importance to the space sector. The ability to understand and address the client’s desires is critical to your survival in the sector. Often the first opportunity to prove your ability to align to the client’s interests is through your response to an RFP. This ability to understand the client and to provide according to their needs is core to the educational mission of the SDC. Only when you understand your client’s needs can you deliver solutions that are relevant.

I hope you now have a deeper understanding of the function of the RFP and feel more comfortable in approaching the next SDC.

Next up in the RFP series, I will shine some light on how to decipher the content of the RFP. What is actually being asked of you? What are the key words? What are your resulting actions?

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more.

External Links

  • Want to get involved in this rapidly growing network of space education enthusiasts? Register your interest to volunteer here: eusdc.org/volunteer-registration
  • Want to follow the news and events in the European context? Check out the EUSDC website here: eusdc.org
  • Want to find out more about the organising charity? Check out the SSEF website here: ssef.org.uk
EUSDC22_OpeningPPT_Aesop EUSDC

EUSDC 2022 & ISSDC Qualifiers

EUSDC22_OpeningPPT_Aesop

Congratulations and well done to all participants of the second continent-wide European Space Design Competition, EUSDC 2022!

57 dedicated participants, 7 European Nations, 6 competing companies, 7 invaluable volunteers.

The challenge presented to Kepler Automation (KA), Olympus Mons Trading Company (OMTC), and Earhart Advanced Industries (EAI) was to design Aesop, a highly modular and modifiable inhabitable hub to house humanity’s artefacts and works of art. It was to be constructed on Mars’ moon, Phobos. The purpose? To be the cultural hub of the solar system.

The incredible efforts put in by all across the three companies has made judging an exceptionally difficult task and the EUSDC team is immensely proud of the quality of work produced. Alas, one company must be selected as the champions of the competition. This year, the title of the EUSDC winning company is Earhart Advanced Industries. Well done to all 20 participants for convincing the judges with your winning design proposals!

Guillermo Baselga Gómez

President

Luciano Francesco Galizia

Structures

Rodrigo Caseiro

Vice President — Engineering

Rawan Ehab Almafraji

Structures

Sara Filipe

Vice President — Marketing & Sales

Samuele Artico

Structures

Pablo Asenjo Gonzalez

 HoD Structures

Teresa Correia

Structures

Joana da Conceição Ferreira Piçarra

HoD Operations

Antonio Crisalli

Operations

Carlos Atienza González

HoD Human Factors

Emanuele Cravero

Operations

Juan Barbas Anta

HoD Automations

Mercedes Andrea

Operations

Lucía Barbas Anta

Human Factors

Tatiana Coreniuc

Operations

Maria Leonor de Almeida Marinho

Human Factors

Sergio Barbas Vázquez

Automations

David Díaz Gutiérrez

Structures

Gonzalo Burgos

Automations

From all participants, only 12 entrants can qualify for the NASA World Finals this summer. From 29 July – 1 August 2022, qualifiers from around the world will gather in person at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to take part at the 2022 International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC). There will be no digital hosting element to this year’s ISSDC and therefore all qualifying participants must attend in person.

The following 2 individuals have already been selected as the Golden Ticket recipients at the Italy and Portugal Nationals:

Luigi Trucco

ITSDC — KA — VPE    

Bernardo Rodrigues

PTSDC — KA — President

Through a rigorous selection process, the EUSDC is proud to congratulate the following 9 students who will be qualifying from the EUSDC and representing Europe at this year’s ISSDC! The 12th and final position is being reserved for a National competition scheduled for May.

Guillermo Baselga Gómez

EAI — President

Joana da Conceição Ferreira Piçarra

EAI — HoD Operations

Sara Filipe

EAI — VP Marketing & Sales

Sergio Barbas Vázquez

EAI — Automations

Pablo Asenjo Gonzalez

EAI — HoD Structures

Traditionally, participants with the highest number of votes from the challenging companies join the representatives of the winning company. In recognition of their outstanding effort, the following students have been selected:

Ivan (Valerie) Kamberov

KA — HoD Operations

Roberto Gurnari

KA — Human Factors

Marta Vasconcelos

OMTC — President

Pablo Gutiérrez Izquierdo

OMTC — Structures

The following individuals have been selected as the ISSDC 2022 reserves in the stated order:

Marta Isola

KA — Operations

João Lourenço

KA —VP Enginering

Rodrigo Caseiro

EAI — VP Enginering

Once again, congratulations! Not only to the ISSDC qualifiers, but to all taking part for making this year’s edition of the EUSDC a memorable and educationally valuable event. Special thanks to International Space University for your constant support in outreach and your enthusiasm for the competitions, and to all the volunteers across the entire EUSDC journey for supporting us.

If you have been inspired to join our journeys or our EUSDC family, do not hesitate to get in touch or register yourself as a volunteer. We’d love to have you on board.

Watch this space!

SDC_ContractorsScreenshot Explainers

#5: Prime & Subcontractors

Word count & reading time: (1280 words – 10 minutes)

Welcome back to the Space Design Competitions – unique, impactful, and exhilarating space STEAM-a-thon events that get you conceptually designing space habitats for up to 80 years in the future… 

The last article elaborated on the details of the Company Structure and roles within them. Prime and Subcontractors were introduced and are often a stumbling block for most first-time participants. As such, we’ll dive into it here as these concepts are integral to the Space Design Competitions.

If you have not already, take a minute to watch this video reviewing 14 years of  the UKSDC event. It gives a great overview of what we’re all about.

What is a contractor?

A great place to start. What is a contractor and what do they have to do with industry? Before we jump into contractors, let us first acknowledge the root word: contracts. 

You may be familiar with what a contract is as you have probably got your phone data & call package on some form of contract, or are aware of contracts with utility providers (e.g. internet, electricity, water, or gas) for your home. But what is a contract?

A contract is a formal written —or spoken— agreement, especially one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law. 

It’s essentially an agreement between two or more parties regarding work to be done. It should now make a lot more sense when you read the definition for a contractor below.

A contractor is an individual or firm that agrees to the terms of a contract and provides materials or labour to perform the service or fulfil the job as stated in the contract.

In essence, a contract is the agreement and the contractors are those fulfilling the terms of the agreement for the client. This is the bread-and-butter of modern day industry (especially the space sector!), describing how it operates efficiently and effectively.

A client is an individual or firm using the services of another professional individual or firm, the owner of the job stated in a contract. 

Picture yourself as the owner of an electronics shop. You may not have the skills within your shop to perform interior refurbishment. Desperately needing to upgrade the interior of your shop for new electronic hardware, you decide to hire specialists to perform these specific tasks. In this example, you —the business owner— are the client and the specialists are the contractors. It’s as simple as that!

If you haven’t quite understood this concept yet, give it some time to set in as the rest of the article will go into further detail about the various types of contractors.

What is a Prime Contractor?

The word “prime” is often given to an individual or entity that is of importance: the main entity. So in the case of contractors, the Prime Contractor is the main contractor. 

In very large projects (such as building a space settlement) there exists a wide array of skills and specialisations needed to complete the entire project. In such cases, you will need to hire many different subcontractors. But who manages them all?

The Prime Contractor is the lead contractor responsible for the completion of a project which is under contract with the owner of the job (the client). The obligation of the prime contractor is to complete a project and can hire multiple other contractors (subcontractors) to do the same.

So the prime contractor is the company that the client puts in charge of overseeing the execution of a project. 

In the case of the SDCs, the company that you are a member of is a prime contractor. There are five different companies in the SDCs, each battling to win the client’s trust —by creating the most attractive design proposal— to be awarded the contract. This is the basis of the Space Design Competitions

The five different prime contractors are listed below (their specialisations are accessible here):

  • Kepler Automation
  • Olympus Mons Trading Company
  • Earhart Advanced Industries
  • DaVinci Meccanica
  • Condor Aviation

What is a Subcontractor?

You have probably guessed it already. A  subcontractor is just another contractor in the larger project who fulfils a small part of the whole.

A subcontractor is an individual or a firm that signs a contract to perform part of the obligations of another’s contract.

You would often hire subcontractors either to reduce costs, save time, or to mitigate project risks. In employing subcontractors, the prime contractor hopes to receive the same or better service than the prime contractor could have provided by itself at lower overall risk. Remember the example of the electronics shop?

In the SDCs, there are a tonne of subcontractors that you —a member of a prime contractor— can and should use in your design proposal. Each has a specialisation that may prove beneficial to you. The judges will be looking out for effective use of subcontractors to reduce project costs, timelines, and risks.

The idea of offloading your work to someone else may seem alien to you as this is not typically practised in school. Well, that’s just another reason you should take part in an SDC! We’re here to show you how industries work.

SDC_ContractorsScreenshot

An SDC Example

You now know that in the SDCs you are a member of one of the companies (a prime contractor) competing to win a contract with the Foundation Society (the client) to build a space settlement. In this setting, you are encouraged and expected to use someone else’s specialisations (subcontractors) to fulfil a part of your design proposal. All right, let’s put this together in a typical SDC example.

You are a member of the Human Engineering department of Earhart Advanced Industries (a prime contractor). The Foundation Society (the client) has specifically listed a nutritional requirement for a varied, fresh, and balanced diet for the inhabitants.

Your department decides that fish is a tasty source of protein, fatty acids, and an assortment of vitamins and minerals. You also note that growing fish means you can offer ecological habitats on your settlement that resemble Earth, improving the mental health of the inhabitants. Great! But you have absolutely no clue how to farm fish.

Your first point-of-call is to check the list of subcontractors. Low and behold, CRISPR Cod is an organisation that sells, despite their name, a large variety of genetically modified fish that they claim are guaranteed to provide greater yields of produce with greater resistance to parasites and diseases.

You enlist CRISPR Cod’s services, noting how much it will cost. Simple as that. 

Here, you isolated a subcontractor that can perform the work you need and enlisted their services. In your final design proposal, all you need to do is state the use of the subcontractor, how much it will cost you, and how the provision of their services will make your settlement desirable to the client.

Congratulations, you’re one step closer to being SDC ready!

Final Remarks

The notion of contractors is of fundamental importance to the space sector. I hope you now have a deeper understanding of how they work and how you can utilise this knowledge in the SDCs. 

Next up, I will do my best to give you the skills necessary to decipher the Request for Proposal (RFP); the central document to all SDCs. It will be a 3-part series as there is much to cover…

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more!

External Links

  • Want to get involved in this rapidly growing network of space education enthusiasts? Register your interest to volunteer here: eusdc.org/volunteer-registration
  • Want to follow the news and events in the European context? Check out the EUSDC website here: eusdc.org
  • Want to find out more about the organising charity? Check out the SSEF website here: ssef.org.uk
PTSDC22_KeplerScreenshot EUSDC

PTSDC 2022 Qualifiers to EUSDC & ISSDC

PTSDC22_TitleSlide

Congratulations and well done to all participants of the first National Space Design Competition in Portugal, PTSDC 2022!

37 dedicated participants across multiple regions of Portugal, 3 competing companies, 19 invaluable volunteers. 

The challenge presented to Kepler Automation, Olympus Mons Trading Company, and Earhart Advanced Industries was to design a habitat on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The purpose? A state-of-the-art science & medical research facility.

The incredible efforts put in by all across the three companies has made judging a difficult task. Alas, one company must be selected as the champions of the competition to progress onwards to the EUSDC. This year, the title of the PTSDC winning company is Kepler Automation. 

The EUSDC is proud to congratulate the following 14 students who will be representing Portugal at this year’s European Final:

Alexandre Plotean João Lourenço
Bernardo Rodrigues Mafalda Sampaio Blanco Gaspar
Bernardo Nunes Marta Vasconcelos
Duarte Marques Rafael Pereira
Joana Monteiro Sara Filipe
Joana da Conceição Ferreira Piçarra Tatiana Coreniuc
João Neto Teresa Correia

As is EUSDC tradition, participants with the highest number of votes from the challenging companies join the representatives of the winning company at the European Final. In recognition of their outstanding effort, the following 4 participants have been selected:

Maria Leonor de Almeida Marinho
Rodrigo Caseiro
João Theriaga Gonçalves
Maria João Lopes

Available to the PTSDC competition was a Golden Ticket opportunity of progressing directly to the World Finals, NASA’s ISSDC held in Florida USA. Having to prove their exemplary efforts during the competition, the organising committee has decided that the recipient of this prestigious award for the PTSDC 2022 goes to:

Bernardo Rodrigues

President — Kepler Automation

Congratulations! Not only to the EUSDC qualifiers and Golden Ticket recipient, but to all taking part for making this year’s edition of the PTSDC other-worldly. Special thanks to Ciencia Viva & Portugal Space Agency for your collaboration, Pedro Coimbra & Marta Goncalves for your outstanding efforts as PTSDC Lead Organisers, and to all the volunteers from across Europe for supporting us.

Plenty more SDCs in the pipeline.

Watch this space!