Reach for the stars - Young scientists jet to LA to present space projects

Young Irish scientists are heading for the stars as one is to have an asteroid named after him and six others are about to present a project to leading space engineers.

The team of fifth-year students at St Flannan’s College in Ennis, Co Clare, are jetting off today to Los Angeles to deliver a paper at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference.

Their Space Elevator project won them second place in March in the group category for older students in the Nasa Ames Space Settlement competition, which attracted more than 2,500 global entries.

They will now be explaining their eco-friendly ideas about how to establish settlements in space, creating an elevator supported by nano-tubes of carbon extracted from atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Their ability to attend was not certain without raising the estimated €13,000 cost of travel and accommodation, as highlighted by the Irish Examiner last month, but local people, schools, and businesses all pitched in to ensure the trip could go ahead.

Among them was Intel, who also invited the students to present their project to 25 of its engineers.

“It gave them great practice at presenting, just like they will do in LA in the same session as some of the leading experts in space science,” said their physics teacher John Connelly.

Other sponsors were pharmaceutical firm Roche, St Francis Credit Union Ennis, An Post, Shannon Airport, and schools and parents.

Last Friday, St Muerdach’s College, Ballina, student, Aaron Hannon, was one of the top winners in his embedded systems category at Intel ISEF 2018 in Pittsburgh, earning himself $3,000 (€2,550) and an asteroid with his name on it.

His device to help people with limited hand dexterity to shave won him the top award at Ireland’s SciFest 2017.

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