Robotics team presents tickets to Mars

Headmaster of the German International School Cape Town, Alexander Kirmse, guest speaker Rajveer Singh Jolly, keynote speaker Dr Adriana Marais and two members of the DSK Robotics team Filip Stapar and Nicholas Blair.

After being crowned national champions in December last year, the Robotics team of the German International School Cape Town (DSK) “ASAP” presented the “One-way ticket to Mars” event on Tuesday March 12.

This was one of their fund-raising efforts to be able to represent South Africa at the First Lego League (FLL) World Championships in the USA in April.

The FLL is a worldwide themed programme to encourage pupils to develop practical science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills through a hands-on competition.

In South Africa, a total of 135 provincial teams entered last year, 31 of which qualified for the national championships in Johannesburg.

The sold-out fund-raising event hosted 500 visitors at the German International School Cape Town to join an inspiring and informative evening discussing big questions of the future.

Members of the DSK Robotics team “ASAP” kicked off the event by demonstrating in front of the audience robotic tasks they had to perform during the FFL Championships. The pupils explained last year’s project topic: “Into Orbit – looking at how to meet the challenges of space travel”.

Coming up with an ambitious challenge, the DSK pupils showed the audience how to create methane from the Martian atmosphere which could then be used as rocket fuel to return back to Earth or for further solar exploration.

Professor Ulrike Rivett, director of the School of IT at UCT and a DSK parent, took the stage to explain the importance of STEM skills for the future and how much technology affects businesses and our everyday lives. She is a strong supporter of implementing STEM in all school curricula to equip children with competencies preparing them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The keynote speaker of the evening, South African scientist, researcher and innovator Dr Adriana Marais, took the audience on a fascinating and futuristic journey of science, technology and the human desire to explore the unknown.

Dr Marais spoke about a mission the humankind has never gone on before; the expansion of the human society beyond Earth. Dr Marais is currently one of the 100 Mars One Project astronaut candidates in the running to move to the red planet within the next decade.

“The reason I want to go to Mars is simple – the allures of the unknown is far more powerful than the comfort of the known”, she explained.

Recent speculations about financial challenges of Mars One questioning the credibility of the project leaves Dr Marais unfazed. She is positive that a settlement on Mars will happen in the near future, one way or another.

Her next project will send her off to Antarctica in 2020. This off-world experience will simulate living in an isolated and extreme environment to test the limits of current technologies and to find ways of sustainable living. The research will feed valuable information on how to use resources efficiently, this will give solutions for sustainable living on Earth as well as key elements on how to survive on Mars.

Rajveer Singh Jolly, a 15-year-old student from India, was invited on stage by Dr Marais to share his story with the audience. Rajveer moved with his family to South Africa five years ago. His passion for space travel and his strong belief that everything is possible paved his way of being accepted at the Space Camp Leadership Scholarship programme in the USA. Rajveer is a “Student Space Ambassador of the Mars Generation” and a member of the Cape Town Space Society.

The evening was closed off by Dr Marais with a question-and-answer session, where especially the young generation used the opportunity to raise many questions.