Reaching for the stars
The Space and Satellites course organised by Aalto University offered upper secondary school pupils the opportunity to learn about the research that had been the basis of things they had learned at school: 'At school they say that there's a planet orbiting somewhere up there, but here we can really see how its existence was originally established' says Saara Virkkunen of the Olari Upper Secondary School.
Saara has always been fascinated by space. As a child she took part in a Star Camp organised by the Ursa Astronomical Association and her interest in the topic has not waned. She persuaded her friends Safiyah Korhonen and Laura Kanerva from her school to join her on the course.
'The visit to the Finnish Meteorological Institute left an impression. It was cool to get to see the equipment and how space is studied', Safiyah says.
Riikka Rintala from Kotka Svenska Samskolan, a Swedish language school in Kotka, wanted to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the course to learn more about space research under the guidance of leading experts.
'In a small school courses in subjects such as astronomy are not available. Here we get to meet professionals in the field, and we get a taste of what it would be like to study and work here', Riikka observes.
The general atmosphere on the course was excited, which was also confirmed by the teacher of the course Alexandros Binios: 'The pupils were very active and wanted to learn more. They enjoyed the opportunity to ponder matters on their own, without ready answers.'
The Space and Satellites course was organised in April for the seventh time. Under the guidance of Aalto experts the pupils had the chance to visit the laboratory where Finland's first satellites, the Aalto 1, Aalto 2, and Aalto 3 were built, to learn about an asteroid mission, to look at the Kumpula Mars probe, and to plan their own space missions. Plans were made for missions such as a trip to take samples from the dwarf planet Ceres and the launch of mining activity on a robot-occupied Moon.
Top courses offer top level teaching to upper secondary school students, and their purpose is to increase interest in mathematical natural sciences and offer the students an opportunity to become familiar with the university world already during their upper secondary school studies. The courses, which cover topics such as space and satellites, biotechnology and micro- and nanotechnology, are taught by Aalto University professors, researchers and teachers. These week-long intensive courses are held in autumn and in spring.
Text and photos: Linda Koskinen
Photo of Aalto-1: Mikko Raskinen