Is space the solution to Earth’s environmental problems?

Posted By : Alex Lynn
Is space the solution to Earth’s environmental problems?

As the 50th anniversary of the moon landing approaches, new research has found children are looking to space just as much as their grandparents were 50 years ago, but for very different reasons. Nearly two thirds (61%) of children are worried about environmental damage to the planet, with 49% believing we will have to look to Space for somewhere to live in the future.

The research conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) amongst children aged six to 16 and their parents shows over half (61%) of children believe climate change issues could mean humankind will leave the planet. In fact, ‘planet hopping’ might happen sooner than we think with 48% of children saying a human colony on Mars will be established in their lifetime, while nearly three in five (59%) expect that they will be able to visit space on holiday in the future.

Worries about the future of Earth are not solely confined to children as two thirds (66%) of parents admit they are ‘future-proofing’ their children to ensure they have the engineering skills required to tackle a future threatened by climate change. In fact, more than a third (37%) of parents say they would like to send their children to an extracurricular activity such as a mathematics, coding or science club, with STEM activities proving more popular than music (34%) and drama (33%) lessons.

Children too are becoming more interested in STEM based subjects with the research showing over one third (33%) of under 16s would now consider a career in engineering. The idea of living on another planet in the future has played a key role for nearly half (46%) of children in their interest in engineering and technology.

Engineering is now the third most popular profession children would like to work in with 15% saying it would be their preferred career behind being a YouTuber (18%), or footballer (17%). In fact, of all the careers available in engineering, 16% of children said space exploration would be the number one field they would want to work within.

To help inspire the next generation of astronauts and engineers, the IET has launched a competition with iconic comic Beano inviting six to 13-year olds to design a product which they could not live without on Mars. The competition is open for entries from now until 3rd July 2019. Entrants must send their design for a product, along with a few sentences on how they would adapt it to work on Mars.

IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year and aspiring astronaut Sophie Harker (27), said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for under 13s to experience the creativity that a career in engineering brings. The future of space exploration will require the ingenuity of as many young people as possible with the right skills. 

“Showing young people – and especially young women – that STEM careers have infinite possibilities is vital. Who knows what products we’ll need in space in the future? The competition with Beano aims to inspire children to think outside the box about what is important to them and how engineering can help make their dreams a reality.”

The winner of the competition will be selected by a panel of judges from the IET, Sophie Harker and editor of the Beano. The winning design will be made into a 3D prototype and sent to the edge of space. The winner and two runners-up will be invited to attend the space launch and see their design head up above the clouds. Beano will also turn the winner into a cartoon character, and will feature in the comic in a future issue. 

For more information about how to enter, click here.

Historically, inspirational figures in engineering relating to space have been male. However, the research suggests this is set to change in the near future as more than a third (36%) of children who say they would consider a career in engineering were girls.

The IET aims to inspire the next generation of engineers and help to plug the nationwide engineering skills shortage. 203,000 people with engineering skills are required each year to meet demand through to 2024, however it’s estimated that there will be an annual shortfall of 59,000 engineers and technicians to fill these roles.

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