Asteroid Day Ideathon : Students innovate asteroid possibilities for a sustainable future

Democrazily Science Aug 1, 2023

A student’s mind is a treasure trove of ideas waiting to be brought to life. The sky is not the limit for a student with endless creative thinking and it is true that every great invention starts with a student daring to imagine the impossible. With the intent of inspiring students to think beyond the bounds of earth, Open Space Foundation conducted Asteroid Day Ideathon, an innovation based science competition for the school students on the account of International Asteroid Day celebration.

The competition encouraged the students of class 6 to 12 to acquire a scientific curiosity towards exploring the asteroids. Participants were challenged to develop unique ideas that harness the potential of asteroids for the betterment of humanity and sustainable development under the themes scientific exploration on asteroids, asteroids for tourism / agriculture / Spaceports and planetary defense. The competition recorded 177 participations from around 22 schools from different regions of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Major participants were from Panchayat Union Middle Schools located in Periyanaickenpalayam block, Coimbatore and Sri Jayendra Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Trichy. While a number of students from Krishnagiri, Kanchipuram,  Chennai,  Sivagangai, Cuddalore, Sirkazi, Namakkal, Dharmapuri, Perambalur and Ariyalur districts actively participated in the competition. The diverse participation from the school students across the state indeed marked the essence of curiosity that Asteroid Day Ideathon had created among the young minds. It is notable that among 177 participants 79 were boys and 98 were girls.

These kids worked in groups with a maximum of three participants in each group and many of them also worked individually to create the reports. The reports they developed in general consisted of the scientific study and information about the asteroid chosen to develop their innovations, the detailed description of the idea and a colourful well planned schematic layout of their idea after its execution on the asteroid. The reports were collected through Google forms and were evaluated based on the participant’s scientific understanding of asteroids, presence of mind, creative & critical thinking. It was found that most of the students shared a futuristic perspective of developing autonomous farming, space tourism, space mining and space ports on the asteroids. This innovative notion may also pave the way for establishing human habitation on asteroids in the near future as presented by these kids. While an equal interest was shown by other participants in the fields of planetary defense and scientific exploration on asteroids. Where the students produced a very explicit and well-studied report on the scientific details of asteroids, the studies and mission carried out by the spacecraft along with their new conceptions.

An array of exceptional ideas were witnessed, each showcased a blend of creativity, scientific acumen, critical analysis and a vision for a better future.Taking a moment to highlight and appreciate these brilliant ideas. We were inspired by the brilliant proposal of tapping metals from metallic asteroids to manufacture low-cost medical and agricultural equipment, silicon chips and other devices. On the other hand, the vision for an interplanetary transit base, complete with essential modules and defense systems demonstrated the exceptional foresight and commitment of the participants towards space exploration and safety. The proposal for space-based agriculture highlighted the importance of sustainable food production in prolonged space missions, laying the foundation for human habitations beyond earth. Also the idea of generating solar energy and hydrogen fuel out of water splitting in asteroids and transmitting it to earth was found to be remarkable, making an approach to solve the energy demands of mankind leading towards a greener future.

In addition, students had also developed impressive research labs on the asteroids dedicated to explore new frontiers in science and technology. One such lab focused on the antimicrobial activity of silver collected from an asteroid and preparing low-cost medicines out of it. While another such lab involved use of laser technology to measure the distance between the celestial bodies and study dynamics and interactions. Students had also envisioned the establishment of spaceports for essential supplies and refueling systems. Additionally, the concept of space tourism with planetarium, museums and hotels monitored by robots had also captured the imagination of our students.

Each of these ideas reflects the creativity, passion, curiosity and innovations of the students. These young minds have proven that the possibilities of our future are limitless and undoubtedly, these visionaries are going to be the driving force behind the progress shaping our world with boundless possibilities. We are indeed inspired and look forward to inspiring and encouraging these kids to aspire and innovate more.