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Mission to Mars unlocks the potential of gifted students

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For immediate use
Thursday 18 August 2005

Gifted young people from around the UK are spending three weeks at university this month to try their hand at space science research.

Over 120 students between the ages of 11 and 16 are taking advantage of the specialist equipment and expert guidance available at Imperial College London, where the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth's residential space science summer school is now taking place.

Students are planning all aspects of the mock mission to Mars, from the launch to surviving in space and investigating the Martian environment. Working in teams, they are designing, building and stocking a self-sustaining ecosystem that could be used to survive on the planet, as well as devising radio-controlled robots capable of exploring the landscape.

Summer school students

These exercises provide opportunities that are not available in school according to 15 year old Kevin Daiper of Wadham Business and Enterprise College, who says: "One thing we're doing is firing rockets and using trigonometry to work out how high they get. I've always been interested in astronomy so being able to try out so many different things is great."

Laura Church, also 15, of Chelmsford County Girls School agrees. "Making probes to explore Mars has been really good and I'm looking forward to trying them out," she says. "I definitely want to do something connected with engineering as a career."

NAGTY summer schools aim to unlock the potential of able young people by expanding on their school-based learning and providing opportunities to work with their peers. Professor David Phillips, Imperial's Dean of the Faculties of Life Sciences and Physical Sciences and Senior Science Ambassador, comments:

"Students on this course are being provided with a unique set of experiences and challenges that give them a real sense of what they can achieve when they apply the principles they learn at school. We are constantly impressed with the creative ideas they come up with and the enthusiasm they have for the projects. At a time when fewer and fewer young people in this country are opting for science and maths A levels, programmes like this are vital to make sure this talent is nurtured."

Ken Sloan, Head of the Student Academy at NAGTY, adds: "NAGTY summer schools are a great opportunity for students from the top 5% to study a chosen subject with an expert in their field in a university environment. Our students are very interested in science courses and the summer school at Imperial offers members a first-hand insight into university life and what it would be like to study science at undergraduate level."

The NAGTY summer school at Imperial is taking place from 14-27 August.
Photographs are available.

For further information contact:

Abigail Smith
Imperial College London Press Office
Tel: 020 7594 6701

Notes to editors

About the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth

The National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth was set up by government, at the University of Warwick, to improve provision for gifted and talented children and young people up to the age of 19 years, and to provide guidance, advice and development for teachers. It is the centre of expertise for gifted education in England.
The National Academy's core infrastructure funding comes from the DfES, with additional funding generated through successful partnerships with businesses, charitable trusts and individuals. Our ability to meet the full scope and scale of need is contingent on the support we receive.

About Imperial College London

Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (11,000) and staff (6,000) of the highest international quality.
Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.