Covid-19 inspired next generation of scientists, claims study

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The coronavirus pandemic has inspired more than a third (35%) of children to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), new data from Thales suggests.

According to its figures, children in the UK are most inspired to be doctors or nurses (29%) and astronauts (25%). Youngsters have also been particularly engaged by scientific discoveries over the last 12 months. A survey of more than 2,000 parents of children aged five to 16 across the UK found that 50% of youngsters cited NHS frontline staff, the scientists behind the Covid-19 vaccine rollout (31%) and the Mars rover landing (24%) as events that have most inspired.

However, the research also showed that there are still barriers which exist prohibiting children from pursuing a career in STEM.

The top five barriers to a STEM career:

Not given enough information about a career in STEM – 38%
Parents don’t know enough about a career in STEM to advise children – 33%
Not enough media coverage – 31%
Not enough role models – 28%
It’s seen as too hard to succeed in  –  21%

To provide students with the opportunity to channel their interest in STEM, Thales Alenia Space in the UK is launching its eighth annual MARSBalloon project – run by its team of enthusiastic graduate space engineers.

In June 2021 the project will launch over 150 experiment capsules designed by UK school children up into the atmosphere via a high altitude balloon, testing student ideas for technologies that could one day be destined for Mars. The experiments will experience conditions very similar to the surface of Mars including temperatures as low as -50°C.

This will allow students to test the response of electronics, materials, plants and even food to the conditions outside of a future Mars base, helping future explorers to prepare for this strange and hostile environment.

The project is supported by Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut in space – the perfect space exploration ambassador.

Says Sharman: 

“I am passionate about showing children how science is relevant to our lives and of course I believe space is one of the most exciting areas. So far humanity has launched 50 missions to the red planet and we are only just beginning to understand the planet’s environment.

“It’s entirely possible that Mars may be able to one day support a human colony, and it’s crucial that a future generation of astronauts is inspired to try and overcome the biological and technological challenges in order to make that a reality. The MARSBalloon project is helping to make space exploration tangible, accessible and most importantly fun!”

Chris Price
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