Engineering student mentors space settlement design competitors

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By Graham Cook

Bhupinder Rathore will accompany 10 high school students to Houston, Texas, to compete in the 18th annual Space Settlement Competition

Simon Fraser University undergrad Bhupinder Rathore is mentoring a group of Surrey high-school students while they create a plan for a city in space. Rathore, a computer engineering student, plans to once again lead his pupils into the 18th annual International Space Settlement Competition, funded by Boeing and NASA.
Rathore spoke with The Peak about the competition, stating that he is “helping them create a proposal for . . . a city in space. We are supposed to provide for everything: food, water, recreation, the dimensions, the material we are going to construct it with, the schedule, the cost . . . the mode of transportation, and the power.” The contest, which includes high school students from around the world, began with an online submission that is sent to the event organizers.
From there, the best submissions were chosen and 12 teams received an invitation to attend the final round in late July at the Lyndon B. Johnston Space Centre, located in Houston, Texas. These top 12 groups are divided into teams, which often span multiple countries, and have 41 hours to work together to create a new proposal. This time, the information from their previous proposal on the internet is no longer allowed to be used. The teams instead utilize their mentor, NASA’s library, and supporting astronauts and engineers. Rathore’s group will be working with teams from Colorado, Pakistan, and Australia.
He stated that this provided one of the most prevalent challenges last year, as there are cultural and language barriers to overcome. One problem that he said could arise with this year’s pairing is a possible lack of co-operation between the Pakistanis and the Americans.
Rathore said that he was drawn to this work, as he “was always into space.” He added, “last year one of the high school students who was my friend told me that there is a high school competition and that they wanted to do it, but they did not have anyone to guide them.” The student knew that Rathore had an interest in space and requested that he be their mentor. Rathore then made a small presentation to the high school’s administrators, who were in favour of the idea.
According to Rathore, one of the most interesting things about the competition is that it spans multiple fields other than physics and engineering, such as biology and business. He stated that it “gives [the students] a demo of actual engineering. . . . You have a project, a deadline, and a CEO yelling at you.” He added that “last year it was the first Canadian team to make it to finals, this year it’s the second Canadian team to make it to finals. . . . we didn’t win last year . . . hopefully we’ll win this year.”