Teens urged to be future thinkers

Students in the UK will have the chance to win a visit to Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in a competition announced by the Arthur C Clarke Foundation.

It is timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Sir Arthur’s famous paper on communication satellites.

The paper was the first to suggest that the use of geostationary orbits could aid global communication.

To take part in the contest, entrants must submit a five-minute presentation on the future of the technology.

VIP visit

The competition is divided into two age ranges: 14-16 and 16-18. One winner will be chosen from each group.

An essay
Short film
Mock documentary
Mock-up newspaper report
Filmed TV debate
Powerpoint presentation

Entries will be judged by a panel from the Arthur C Clarke Foundation, the Institute of Physics, National Science Learning Centres and BBC Focus magazine.

They will be looking for both “understanding of the scientific principles” and “imaginative flair” in entrants’ presentations.

The Foundation has also put an emphasis on an ability to communicate “the excitement and practical uses” of the scientific theory.

The format of entries is to be decided by the entrant. The judges’ suggestions range from essays to short films, but they will accept anything “which can easily be delivered in hard copy or electronic format”.

The winners will be treated to a VIP visit to the Space Center, based at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Space Center is the site of the launch of the Discovery shuttle. The deadline for applications is 15 December this year.

Arthur C Clarke
A true broadcast service, giving constant field strength at all times over the whole globe, would be invaluable, not to say indispensable, in a world society

Arthur C Clarke, 1945

Science fiction

The competition is being organised by Sir Arthur’s niece, Angela Edwards. She is keen to see “this seminal piece of work” bought to “an audience whom it’s passed by”.

The contest aims to encourage students to view science as exciting in its own right. She hopes that Sir Arthur’s role as both a scientist and sci-fi writer can help to achieve this.

“There’s a whole generation for whom science fiction has been overtaken by science fantasy,” she told the BBC News website.

National Science Learning Centres has provided advice on the educational aspect of the competition.

“We anticipate that the multiple formats for submission will produce a lively and innovative range of entries,” said a spokeswoman for the institution.

“We are very much looking forward to being involved in the judging process.”

What satellites are for, where they go, and how they are launched

Sir Arthur’s original article, entitled Extra-terrestrial Relays, was published in October 1945 in the science journal Wireless World.

The idea of a satellite using a geostationary orbit – one where its position relative to the earth remains constant – was groundbreaking.

Sir Arthur’s importance is immortalised in the unofficial name for the technique: the Clarke orbit.


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