Space flight as an incentive for students to take up STEM

A team of academics will investigate in a three-year project if school students will be more interested in STEM subjects if they are exposed to space flight missions.

The £348,000 project is funded by the UK Space Agency and the Economic and Social Research Council (ERSC) and it is based on British astronaut Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in November this year.

A mix of data and views gathered from primary and secondary school pupils and teachers, but also space scientists, should reveal the areas of the industry that might influence students to take up STEM subjects.

“There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that space and space travel increase the interest of young people in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, said Professor Judith Bennett, Principal Investigator from the University of York.

“We have a golden opportunity to gauge this hypothesis as we prepare to send a British astronaut into space at the end of next year.”

The study, starting in January 2015, aims to build an overview of space science resources and also design a new instrument to measure school students’ attitudes to STEM subjects, being rolled out in 60 schools in the UK.  

David Parker, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “The UK Space Agency is committed to supporting UK space activities.  This research will allow us to better understand the ways in which our programmes affect society. 

“The excitement of space gives an excellent context for STEM education, and we’re keen to make sure that the benefits of space – for education, for society, for growth – are properly assessed and understood.”


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