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SSEF Mourns the Passing of CEO Anita Gale

SSEF are saddened to hear of the passing of Anita Gale, co-founder of ISSDC, over the weekend. Anita spent her career inspiring young people around the world to pursue careers in science and space, and helped countless young girls discover their potential in technical fields. Anita will be greatly missed and her legacy will continue to have a lasting impact on young people for years to come.

To read about her life, please click here



ROSDC landed in Cluj for the first time and…

ROSDC landed in Cluj for the first time and students had a blast!


This October saw the first Cluj regional of the Romanian Space Design Competition take place at “Avram Iancu” Theoretical High School. The day saw over 80 students create designs for a lunar based settlement and present their designs to a panel of judges including: SSEF Junior Programmes Director Corinne Barker, Salad Box CEO Alina Covșă, software engineer Alexandru-Mihail Crăciun, and UBB lecturer Ioan-Gabriel Mircea.

After a welcome briefing from the organisation team in Cluj, Iona and Danielle, SSEF representative Corinne, and ROSDC organiser Adrian, students received technical training from ISSDC alumni Anastasia and Alex. The 3 companies, Kepler Automation, Earhart Advanced Industries and Olympus Mons Trading Company then headed off to their company headquarters to elect their presidents and vice presidents. Companies were all assigned company mentors who spent their day working alongside the company’s leadership to help guide the company through the competition.

It was finally time for students to get working on their designs. Companies brainstormed their initial ideas through the morning and were able to make key design decisions to be able to meet later requirements in the RFP. Fuelled up on pizzas for lunch the companies spent their afternoon workshopping their ideas and creating engaging and creative presentations ready for the judges to review. It was great to see the teams working so well together and collaborating on their ideas to fulfil the requirements of the RFP.

After a productive day working hard to get their designs finalised, it was time for the companies to present their ideas to the judges. All 3 presentations did an excellent job of clearly communicating the company’s vision for the settlement and showcased their original, innovative ideas in a professional manner. All 3 teams did a fantastic job, but as always there can only be one winner. After much deliberation the judges announced the winning company as Kepler Automation, a massive well done to all the company members.

The work produced by all participants throughout the day was of an extremely high standard and left both the judges and volunteers impressed by the quality of their ideas and the level of detail in their presentations. 12 students have been selected to join 12 students from the Bucharest regional at the EUSDC finals, which will take place online in March. We can’t wait to see what ideas and designs students create on the day.

ROSDC is powered by SSEF and ROSPIN. The ROSDC thrives thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers who work incredibly hard to help make the events happen. The Cluj regional was also generously supported by Atelierul de Pizza, who kindly donated 40 pizzas for the students lunch, and Fabrit global. ROSDC would not be possible without the support of our sponsors and we are immensely grateful for their continued donations.

Corinne Barker

How We Think and Learn

How We Think And Learn

Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.

~John Dewey, The Quest for Certainty, 1929

Catherine Twomey Fosnot

Most people assume that learning results from teachers transmitting knowledge: clearly explaining concepts, procedures to be practiced, and facts to be memorized; then testing to assess retention and application, with subsequent feedback. Yet this could not be further from the truth… Continue to read

From Chapter 22 UKSDC book available on Amazon   

Why does the space competition work?


Randall Perry March 30,2018

I am often asked why the Space Design Competition (SDC) format works. Whilst my quick fire response when in the throes of organising an event is often, “It’s all the students’ own work, not ours”; this does belie the research and development that underpins the setting up and running of the events run by the SSEF.Whether taking place in our competition for younger students, the Galactic Challenge (GC) has been tailored for 10 -14 year olds), or the hallmark senior competition, the Space Design Competition for those up to the ages 15 – 18, students’ become enthused by the event, and surpass expectations of their teachers and parents. The SDC and GC present participants with a problem that is challenging enough so that they need to apply (metacognitive) strategies to monitor and achieve success, but not so challenging that they become overwhelmed. The provision of mentors that facilitate students to recognise problems and thus achieve solutions is key to SDC and GC methodology. Mentors will encourage planning and monitor the progress throughout the day, but will not give specific answers; rather they will facilitate the students to solve their own questions. In addition to the confidence students acquire from taking part in a competition, they gain soft skills from working in a large team, and self-belief from presenting their completed work, and answering questions from a panel of expert judges. Further development of all these acquired skills beyond the competition is a given.

Many of the underlying principles have been introduced to SDC competitions come from work and research I have completed with Catherine Twomey Fosnot. The following edited excerpt is from the introduction of a chapter we co-wrote in 2005.

Excerpt from Chapter 2 introduction –  Constructivism: A Psychological Theory of Learning by Catherine Twomey Fosnot and Randall Stewart Perry – you can click on the link above to read the chapter in its entirety*

Psychology – the way learning is defined, studied, and understood—underlies much of the curricular and instructional decision-making that occurs in education… Behaviorism is the doctrine that regards psychology as a scientific study of behavior and explains learning as a system of behavioral responses to physical stimuli. Psychologists working within this theory of learning are interested in the effect of reinforcement, practice, and external motivation on a network of associations and learned behaviors. Educators using such a behaviorist framework preplan a curriculum by breaking a content area (usually seen as a finite body of predetermined knowledge) into assumed component parts—“skills”—and then sequencing these parts into a hierarchy ranging from simple to more complex. Assumptions are made that observation, listening to explanations from teachers who communicate clearly, or engaging in experiences, activities, or practice sessions with feedback will result in learning; and, that proficient skills will quantify to produce the whole, or more encompassing concept… Further, learners are viewed as passive, in need of external motivation, and affected by reinforcement; thus, educators spend their time developing a sequenced, well structured curriculum and determining how they will assess, motivate, reinforce, and evaluate the learner. The learner is simply tested to see where he/she falls on the curriculum continuum and then expected to progress in a linear, quantitative fashion as long as clear communication and appropriate motivation, practice, and reinforcement are provided. Progress by learners is assessed by measuring observable outcomes—behaviors on predetermined tasks. The mastery learning model  is a case in point. This model makes the assumption that wholes can be broken into parts, that skills can be broken into sub skills, and that these skills can be sequenced in a “learning line.” Learners are diagnosed in terms of deficiencies, called “needs,” then taught until “mastery”—defined as behavioral competence—is achieved at each of the sequenced levels. Further, it is assumed that if mastery is achieved at each level then the more general concept (defined by the accumulation of the skills) has also been taught. It is important to note the use of the term “skill” here as the outcome of learning and the goal of teaching. The term itself is derived from the notion of behavioral competence. Although few schools today use the mastery learning model rigidly, much of the prevalent traditional educational practice still in place stems from this behaviorist psychology. Behaviorist theory may have implications for changing behavior, but it offers little in the way of explaining cognitive change—a structural change in understanding. Maturationism is a theory that describes conceptual knowledge as dependent on the developmental stage of the learner, which in turn is the result of a natural unfolding of innate biological programming. From this perspective learners are viewed as active meaning-makers, interpreting experience with cognitive structures that are the result of maturation; thus, age norms for these cognitive maturations are important as predictors of behavior… Further, the curriculum is analyzed for its cognitive requirements on learners, and then matched to the learner’s stage of development…
Rather than behaviors or skills as the goal of instruction, cognitive development and deep understanding are the foci; rather than stages being the result of maturation, they are understood as constructions of active learner reorganization. Rather than viewing learning as a linear process, it is understood to be complex and fundamentally non-linear in nature.
Constructivism, as a psychological theory, stems from the burgeoning field of cognitive science, particularly the later work of Jean Piaget just prior to his death in 1980, the socio-historical work of Lev Vygotsky…The remainder of this chapter will present a description of the work of these scientists and then a synthesis will be developed to describe and define constructivism as a psychological theory of evolution and develop.

Continue to read full chapter

*From a book Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives, and Practice. Editor Catherine Twomey Fosnot