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Kinlochbervie High pupils among first to benefit from space sector STEM learning

By John Davidson

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Space module delivered at Kinlochbervie High School with Scott O'Hara from SSA. Picture: Angus Mackay/HIE
Space module delivered at Kinlochbervie High School with Scott O'Hara from SSA. Picture: Angus Mackay/HIE

Pupils in the Highlands are being given a chance to launch an early career in the growing space sector.

The Science Skills Academy (SSA), a pioneering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programme, is working to help young people develop skills for the future.

The Highlands and Islands are at the forefront of Scotland's space industry, with Space Hub Sutherland aiming to launch its first satellite in the next few years.

The spaceport, along with another in Shetland, has received planning permission and their development is well under way. Moray-based rocket manufacturer Orbex, which will launch from Space Hub Sutherland, at A'Mhoine near Tongue, has already created around 60 highly skilled jobs.

When careers in areas such as research, data analysis, the manufacturing supply chain and service industries are factored in, the space sector looks set to create a wide variety of job opportunities in the region, many of which will be filled by people who are currently in school.

The SSA wants young people in the region to be more aware of the sector and help them develop relevant STEM skills.

Its space-themed activity, focusing on launch activity, rockets, satellites and data collection and application, will be delivered across the SSA’s Highland Newton Room Network and is available to all S1 and S2 pupils from the Highland Council region.

Pupils will discover a variety of skills required to work in the sector, ranging from design and engineering, programming, logical thinking, and teamwork. They will learn about Space Hub Sutherland and the rockets that will be launched there, satellites that are designed and built in Scotland, and how the data collected by these satellites will be used in real-life applications such as monitoring climate change.

Emma Robertson, SSA project manager, said: “The SSA’s new Space module will be a great experience for school pupils from Highland.

"Through practical activities that focus on subjects including physics, material testing and design technology, coding and data handling, they will be introduced to new skills and strengths that are needed for the growing space industry in Scotland.

“By introducing young people to this emerging field and its wide range of career opportunities and pathways, we are highlighting the leading role that the Highlands and Islands have in STEM sectors that are important at local, national and global levels.”

Roy Kirk, Highlands and Islands Enterprise project director, Space Hub Sutherland, who met pupils in Kinlochbervie last month, said: “Our northern location helps make the Highlands and Islands the best place in the UK for launching rockets to put satellites into orbit, and there’s a lot more to the space sector than that.

“As a development agency, our aim is to use the opportunity presented by spaceports in our region to support a very broad range of new jobs that could have a big impact on the economy.

“In north Highland and Moray alone, research commissioned by HIE and Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd showed around 740 jobs could be created by the end of this decade and generate an economic boost of £56 million a year.

“When young people are choosing the subjects they want to study, it’s important they know what the careers of tomorrow are likely to look like, and space is a sector with huge potential in a range of exciting topics.”

The SSA is a partnership project led by HIE with £3 million of Scottish Government funding from the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal. The project has established the Highland Newton Room Network, consisting of five STEM education facilities across Highland.

As well as the Space module, the SSA has developed other resources including films, available on the SSA YouTube channel, that focus on the Scottish space sector and also career pathways of employees who work in the field.

The first Space module activities were delivered at the end of April to S2 pupils from Culloden Academy at the Inverness Newton Room, and to S1-S3 pupils from Kinlochbervie High School at the Pop-Up Newton Room.

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