Author: <span>Kareem Lewis</span>

SDC_CompanyStructure Explainers

#4: Company Structure

Word count & reading time: (1095 words – 8 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 Request for Proposal (RFP) and the concept of companies for teams. But how do these companies work, and where do you fit in? That’s exactly what we’ll dive into in this article.

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.

Once again, what is the point of an SDC?

The SDC is an immersive aerospace industry simulation. It’s an opportunity for you to experience the joys and challenges of complex and multifaceted industry design proposals.

Through this simulation, you will transform yourself into a representative of a fictional company some 50-80 years in the future. Much will have changed, and you will need to work collaboratively to accomplish the design challenge set by the fictional client — the Foundation Society.

What does collaboration mean?

Working collaboratively is a core value of the Space Design Competitions. Without collaboration with your peers, you will not be able to successfully fulfil the RFP.

In the SDCs, you will be working in a company of up to 50 individuals. This may be the first time you will have worked in such a large group, and your ability to collaborate will be put to the challenge.

Collaboration in a workplace means sharing ideas to accomplish a common goal. It is simply teamwork taken to a higher level.

Teamwork is often a physical joining of people to accomplish a task and includes other aspects, such as the following:

  • Thinking & brainstorming ideas to provide solutions – this key element brings groups together to offer different perspectives and expertise to solve common problems. The phrase ‘putting our heads together‘ idiomatically expresses this element of collaboration.
  • Equal participation – in industry, a collaborative manager or leader may say ‘leave your titles at the door.’ Treating everyone as an equal can open up communication and encourage ideas not only from its upper management, but  from all levels of the company or department.
  • Effective communication & management of ideas – central to all collaborative efforts is the ability to communicate ideas across the entire team, to manage their progress, and to evaluate their impact. You will need to choose specific  individuals to fulfil this role.
  • A strong sense of purpose – groups and individuals who truly collaborate see the value in working together and do not feel forced to do so. There should be a meaningful reason for working together, and it should benefit the company as a whole.

Note. collaboration and collation are two very different concepts. One is the joint solving of a problem (collaboration) whilst the other is joining independently constructed solutions (collation) and hoping they fit together.

Confusing these terms results in inefficient company organisation and, ultimately, incomplete design proposals. Understanding how members of large groups work together is pivotal for success at the SDCs.

How are the companies divided?

Each of the companies comprises a group of up to 50 participants, all working towards a common goal: to satisfy the requirements of the RFP.

Depending on the number of participants within a competition, there may be only 2 or 3 companies. If the event is at full capacity, you can expect 5 companies to be running at max capacity! So how is the workload shared among 50 participants?

Splitting the company into specific focus groups guarantees that the workload is shared. As in industry, these focus groups are, in effect, company departments. In the SDCs, there are 4 such departments:

  1. Structures — responsible for the overall structural design of the settlement
  2. Operations — responsible for defining the infrastructure and utilities of the settlement
  3. Automation — responsible for designing and providing digital and robotic services to support the operations of the settlement
  4. Human Factors — responsible for ensuring human safety, livability, and comfort of the settlement

At the start of the event, you will have the opportunity to join any one of these departments. Choosing a department that best suits your interests allows you to explore the topic further, thereby challenging you to grow. It is always recommended that you choose a path that best fits your skills and passions.  But do maintain a degree of flexibility!

How are the companies structured?

As in industry, a hierarchical structure exists within each company in the form of leadership roles bearing specific responsibilities. You may have heard of some of these before: Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Head of Department (HoD), Team Leaders, etc. In the SDCs, there are 4 leadership roles:

  1. Company President — provides leadership across the company and is the most senior role, ensuring that all aspects of the RFP are met.
  2. (VPE) Vice President of Engineering — coordinates each department in order that all engineering divisions communicate their ideas and satisfy the requirements  set out in the RFP.
  3. (VPM) Vice President of Marketing & Sales — imagines the brand for its space company, its financial structure, and its customer marketing.
  4. (HoD) Head of Department — coordinates a specific department, ensuring progress as well as alignment to RFP requirements.

Each of these roles is depicted in Figure 1 below. The red positions represent adult volunteer roles, green positions represent student leadership roles, and blue positions reflect the remainder of student roles.

Note. red positions are filled by SDC alumni, members of academia or of industry and are available to you across the SDC event.

SDC_CompanyStructure

Figure 1. Company hierarchy diagram. 

Every department focuses its work within specialisations to complete the diverse requirements of the RFP.

Ultimately, the departments collaborate and pool their work to assemble the final design.

For a deeper understanding of specific roles and responsibilities, visit this document.

Final Remarks

Now you know about the RFP, about each of the 5 fictional companies within the SDCs, and about the organisation of each company. Perhaps now you even know about where  you fit within them the next time you participate!

Next up, we will explore the relationship between Prime and Subcontractors.

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
SDC_Companies Explainers

#3: Introduction to RFP & Companies

Word count & reading time: (1350 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 what to expect during a typical competition: its structure and timeline. But what exactly is expected of you, as a participant? That’s exactly what we’ll dive into in this article.

Before getting into the details, however, take a minute to watch this video reviewing  14 years of  the UK competition.

So what exactly is an SDC, again?

The SDC is an immersive aerospace industry simulation, i.e., a Space Design Competition. It’s an opportunity for you to experience the joys and challenges of complex and multifaceted industry design proposals. You will transform yourself from where you are today into a representative of a fictional company within the space sector some 50-80 years in the future. Much has changed, technology has advanced beyond our comprehension, and the fictional client —the Foundation Society— is keen to hear how your company will address its design requirements.

A few frequently asked questions that may help you…

Question: So, we’re part of a company during the competition. Is that like a group?

Answer: Yes! A group of space enthusiasts just like you. A company can consist of up to 50 participants. Your objective will be to work together to solve the design requirements of the client, the Foundation Society. Such large groups are typical in industry.

Question: Okay… so we’re working in companies and we’re designing something for the client. What are we designing?

Answer: Each SDC has a unique set of design requirements which are provided to the companies by the client in the form of a Request for Proposal (RFP). This RFP is also typical of industry. Each company designs according to the RFP and then presents their proposal to the client at the end of the competition. The most appropriate design to the RFP is the proposal that wins the bid.

Question: Right. So we’re designing a proposal in large groups according to an RFP that must satisfy the Foundation Society’s requirements. What exactly is the RFP?

Answer: The Request for Proposal (RFP) is everything at a competition. Some of the alumni are probably giggling at this point, because they know how often this is stated and yet overlooked in the rush of an SDC. What you find below may help shine a light on the most important document of the SDCs, the RFP.

What is the RFP about?

The RFP outlines all the design requirements of the Foundation Society for your space habitat. It is a list of tasks the client has asked for and that you need to provide. Remember, to win at the SDCs, your sole task is to deliver on the client’s needs better than any other company, which means fully understanding their needs. So please read the RFP!

The RFP is a long, text-heavy, and very detailed description of the requirements, typical of industry. It is normally split into 6 sections of focus:

  1. Basic Requirements — overall requirements for the design proposal that all departments must adhere to
  2. Structures — overall structural design of the settlement (e.g., interior/exterior drawings, configurations, construction materials, etc.)
  3. Operations — infrastructure and utilities of the settlement (e.g., location of facilities, transportation, operation to support construction, functionality & usability, etc.)
  4. Automation — design and provision of digital and robotic services to support the operations of your settlement (e.g., numbers, types, and designs of robots and computers needed)
  5. Human Factors — provision of human safety, livability, and comfort of the settlement (e.g., designing workplaces, homes, and communities)
  6. Cost & Schedule — detailing the departmental costs

Understanding the RFP and what is being asked of you is a crucial part of the design process. Without this understanding, you are simply sharing your bright ideas. Although we ask for you to do so, make sure that your ideas are also solutions.

Question: I got you. We definitely read the RFP and then design accordingly. There are quite a few tasks, though. I don’t like the sound of most, but I do like one in particular. How do we split the task?

Answer: Luckily, you are not alone in this behemoth undertaking of a challenge. You are with your fellow colleagues within your company. As is standard in industry, companies have departments. You will fit into one of them, or perhaps see yourself more fittingly in a leadership role? Regardless, you can design for whichever RFP section suits your interest the most. 

What are the companies?

There are 5 different fictional companies that, in industrial terms, are called the Prime Contractors. Within the Space Design Competition framework, you will be assigned to one of them:

  1. (KA) Kepler Automation — a European multinational who specialises in satellite technology and are leaders in radiation management and habitation control.
  2. (EAI) Earhart Advanced Industries — the first space contractor in the game. Whilst historically having favoured a cautious solution, they continually advance the state of the art across the entire field.
  3. (OMTC) Olympus Mons Trading Company — a Martian logistics and resource trading company estimated to be the richest organisation in the galaxy. Information about the workings of the company is closely guarded.
  4. (DM) DaVinci Meccanica — developed by several Roscosmos engineers with the idea of humanising ecologically responsible space exploration. A pioneering force in the generation of clean energy in space.
  5. Condor — an Australian process engineering specialist turned launch provider, they have a strong focus on safety systems but know how to innovate, too.

Depending on the size of the competition, there may be only 2 or 3 companies. If the event is at full capacity, you can expect 5 very full companies! More on the company history available here.

As a part of one of the Prime Contracting companies, you may leverage your speciality (e.g., clean power generation) within your design proposal. But what if you want to use someone else’s? As well as the Prime Contractors, there also exist Subcontractors. Thanks to one in particular —Litigation Limiters— you are able to subcontract specific tasks that competing companies specialise in. More on this in a future article.

Each of the companies can be a group of up to 50 participants. Naturally, splitting the company into specific focus groups is a practical method of ensuring the workload is shared. As in industry, this is accomplished through the use of company departments. There are 4:

  1. Structures — responsible for the overall structural design of the settlement
  2. Operations — responsible for defining the infrastructure and utilities of the settlement
  3. Automation — responsible for designing and providing digital and robotic services to support the operations of your settlement
  4. Human Factors — responsible for ensuring human safety, livability, and comfort of the settlement

At the start of the event, you will have the opportunity to join any of them. Choosing a department that best suits your interests will allow you to explore the topic further, thus gaining an insight into the reality of design in the space sector and challenging you to grow. It is always recommended that you choose a path that best suits you. But do maintain a degree of flexibility!

Final Remarks

Somewhat confused on the whole Prime Contractor/Subcontractor business? Don’t worry! More on the use of Subcontractors in a future article. For now, all you need to understand is that you’ll be a representative of one of these companies throughout the entire competition, answering to the RFP.

Next up, we will explore the ins and outs of a typical company. The structure, the hierarchy, the roles and responsibilities, and access to the only adults allowed in the competition: the volunteers!

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
SDCSchedule_1-Day Explainers

#2: SDC Event Structure

Word count & reading time: (1050 words – 8 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 you to the competitions and to what the Space Science & Engineering Foundation is all about. Namely, it introduced the challenge posed to the students as well as the internal framework of the competition. This article will dive a little deeper into the structure of a typical SDC.

Before getting into the details, however, take a minute to watch this video reviewing  14 years of  the UK competition.

Why do event durations vary?

The SDC is an immersive aerospace industry simulation whose duration depends on the tier of the competition. For example, a National SDC (e.g. Portugal’s PTSDC) typically lasts 12 hours on a single day, the Regional (e.g. Europe’s EUSDC) typically lasts 36 hours across a weekend, whilst the International Competition at NASA lasts almost 3 days!

Regardless of the duration of the event, the schedule remains largely identical. The complexity of the challenge, however, determines the time allotted to the participants. Sounds logical? Great! Onwards to a typical schedule.

(More on the tier system will be provided in a future article).

So, how does the day look?

For convenience, we’ll split a typical 12-hour competition into 3 phases: Inauguration, Design Process, and Final Presentations.

Phase One: Inauguration Ceremony

The day is kicked off by introducing the participants to the event and its expectations. To shift everyone into gear, a fun and short context-specific space quiz is run. The results are not relevant to the final design assessment, but the quiz goes a long way to wake everyone up!

After the welcome, the participants go straight into their pre-assigned company groups where they break the ice and get to know one another. Each company can have up to 50 participants with at least 2 adult supervisors (the CEOs) whose sole task is to facilitate the design efforts. Remember, the entire design proposal is participant led!

The key task here is for the company to elect, amongst themselves through majority vote, who will take the main leadership roles: the Company President, Vice President of Engineering, and the VP of Marketing & Sales. Next, the company must decide how they will split themselves into the 4 company departments, and who will be elected as the Head of Department (HoD):

  1. Structures — responsible for the overall structural design of the settlement (e.g. interior/exterior drawings, configurations, construction materials, etc.)
  2. Operations — responsible for defining the infrastructure and utilities of the settlement (e.g. location of facilities, transportation, operation to support construction, functionality & usability, etc.)
  3. Human Factors — responsible for ensuring human safety, livability, and comfort of the settlement (e.g. designing workplaces, homes, and communities)
  4. Automation — responsible for designing and providing digital and robotic services to support the operations of your settlement (e.g. numbers, types, and designs of robots and computers needed)

Each role and department has specific responsibilities which can be further explored here.

Depending on which role you have selected or for which you’ve been elected, all participants will then take part in a Technical Training Session led by an experienced SDC alumni, who will elaborate on the expectations for each department.

Phase Two: The Design Process

The bulk of the day resides in the design of the settlement! With the knowledge of who sits in each leadership role and how the company efforts will be split, the only thing left is to understand the design requirements for the day. What is the challenge? What are you designing, and where? What specific demands are being made by the client?

Answers to all these queries are made clear in the most important document of the day: the Request for Proposal (RFP). Typical of industry, a client will create a list of design requirements in an RFP, providing it to a handful of prospective Prime Contractors, asking for a design that best suits their needs. That is the role of each of the companies in the SDC: to design the settlement based on the needs of the client. The design that aligns best to the needs of the client is awarded the contract and wins the competition.

The companies are handed the RFP, unique for each event, and then proceed to delegate the tasks internally and to create their proposals ahead of the submission deadline.

Phase Three: Final Presentations

After what we are certain will be a rollercoaster of a ride (all SDC alumni are now smiling as they reminisce), the design proposals are submitted and individually presented to an expert panel of judges consisting of the client as well as representatives of academia and industry. Typically, presentations last for 20 minutes with 10 minutes of Q&A.

After each of the presentations has taken place, the judging panel then takes time to deliberate on their decision. Whilst this is going on, the participants have the opportunity to share their experiences, to reflect on them, and to decompress after 8 hours of solid (and often stressful) design efforts.

The day concludes when the judging panel returns to announce which company impressed the client enough to be awarded the design contract!

Final Remarks

Being part of the winning company is not the only takeaway from the competition. Although this achievement should not be shrugged off (only 50 students in the entirety of the UK claim this victory each year at the National Finals – UKSDC), the breadth of the experience equips every active participant with an array of skills to take forward into further studies and their careers. More on this too in a future article.

I trust this explanation has clarified what you can expect from taking part in an SDC. As always, if you have an interest in participating or have queries, drop us a message! We’re happy to help.

Stay tuned for the next article which will dive deeper into the various roles you can take in the SDC!

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
EUSDC Logo Explainers

#1: A Taste of the SDCs

Word count & reading time: (655 words – 3 minutes)

Welcome 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…

This article will introduce you to the competitions and what we’re all about here at the Space Science & Engineering Foundation.

Who runs the show?

The Space Design Competitions (SDCs) have been running since 1984, founded by NASA engineers with the sole purpose of providing 15-18-year-olds the opportunity to experience what industry life is like within the space sector.

Dr. Randall Perry, who sits on the board that governs the global framework of SDCs, introduced the event to the United Kingdom in 2008 before expanding the educational impact into Europe in 2019 and now into the Middle East. Dr. Perry established an education charity called the Space Science & Engineering Foundation (SSEF) to ensure that anyone could participate, regardless of background, gender, or socio-economic status. At times, he would pay out-of-pocket for qualifying participants to attend the World Finals (ISSDC) held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center each year.

By dint of the passion and dedication of a handful of full-time staff, as well as the generous support of sponsors and volunteers, around 36,000 young minds have thus far participated in these competitions. The vast majority have gone on to pursue a degree within STEAM–a degree which they then parlayed into a significant position in industry.

So what is the competition all about?

Overview: The SDC is an immersive 12-to 36-hour aerospace industry simulation. The Competition comprises regional heats, video competitions, an annual National Final (the UKSDC in the UK), a Regional Final (the EUSDC across Europe), and the annual World Final (ISSDC at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida).

The Challenge: The Competition challenges pupils to conceptually design and pitch a space settlement that answers to the requirements of a Request for Proposal (RFP), a fictional “contract” outlining the requirements of the settlement. The winners are those members of the company that performs best, based on multiple factors, such as most innovative design.

Structure: The participants are grouped into four fictional “companies.” They represent and collaborate within these companies to create a bid for the RFP contract. Each company offers leadership roles (Company President, VP, Heads of Departments, etc.) whom the students elect. Each company has a dedicated adult CEO whose role is strictly to advisethe Company President. Two roaming adult Technical Specialists are available to all companies for technical advice throughout the Competition.

Facilitation & Mentoring: Although staff and technical experts are present and play an active role as facilitators during the competition, the SDC is a student-led enterprise. Facilitators are told not to instruct, teach, or educate participants. Instead, they are encouraged to answer questions with questions and to offer tools to overcome the challenges participants face. This is especially important regarding internal conflict within companies–conflicts which the students try to resolve alone. Conflict resolution, of course,  will be a valuable skill to have for any career thereafter.

How do the participants feel about it?

The students bear testament to the success of our programmes. Besides achieving a host of specific learning objectives, pupils have gained other personal benefits. These include increased confidence, awareness of their own strengths, an understanding of other people, a feeling of competence, and a sense of responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Above all, they have fun!.

But how does all this happen in the space of a few short hours? Stay tuned for the next article which will dive deeper into one individual’s own experience!

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
ITSDC2021 EUSDC

ITSDC 2021 Qualifiers to EUSDC & ISSDC

Congratulations and well done to all participants of the first National Space Design Competition in Europe, Italian SDC 2021!

62 dedicated participants across multiple regions of Italy, 3 competing companies, 9 invaluable volunteers. 

The challenge presented to Kepler Automation, Olympus Mons Trading Company, and Earhart Advanced Industries was to design an Aldrin Cycler between Earth and Mars. The purpose? To transport high-end business personnel between the two planets.

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 ITSDC winning company is Kepler Automation. 

The EUSDC is proud to congratulate the following 21 students who will be representing Italy at this year’s European Final:

Andrea Gatto Emanuele Cravero
Antonio Crisalli Francesca Leonetti
Carlo Garbarino Luciano Francesco Galizia
Chiara Pasini Luigi Trucco
Chiara Fabbri Marta Isola
Christian Nappi Matteo Lombardo
Danilo Morabito Roberto Gurnari
Diego Lopez Samuele Cuzzocrea
Eleonora Poggi Tiziano Pasini
Elisa Ferrari Riccardo Maccarrone
Elisa Marino

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:

Elisa Nardin
Samuele Artico
Pietro Gambini
Zakaria Ouhlichou

Available to the ITSDC 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 ITSDC 2021 goes to:

Luigi Trucco

Vice President of Engineering — 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 ITSDC other-worldly. Special thanks to Politecnico Di Milano (POLIMI) for your collaboration, Tommaso Tonina for your outstanding efforts as ITSDC Lead Organiser, and to all the volunteers from across Europe for supporting us.

Watch this space! Plenty more SDCs in the pipeline.