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Challenge Launches STEM Skills Into Space

The Base 11 Space Challenge is a $1 million prize for a student-led university team to design, build and launch a liquid-propelled, single-stage rocket to an altitude of 100 km (the Karman Line) by December 30, 2021. The challenge will feature annual competitions where students reach milestone achievements during the development of liquid-fuel rockets, including design, static testing and smaller popup innovation challenges. The biggest purse, which is fully funded, is the $1 million space launch prize.

A UCLA student with a liquid fuel rocket. Image courtesy of Base 11.

A UCLA student with a liquid fuel rocket.
Image courtesy of Base 11.

To learn more about this competition, we spoke to Al Bunshaft, senior vice president, Americas Global Affairs at Dassault Systèmes, and Landon Taylor, CEO at Base 11.

Digital Engineering: Can you provide an overview of the Base 11 Space Challenge competition?

Al Bunshaft: The mission behind the Base 11 Space Challenge is to dramatically increase the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent in the U.S. with greater representation and inclusion of women and minorities, while empowering the future workforce with the education and skill training necessary for jobs in the aerospace and related industries.

People often ask how a rocket competition can improve diversity in STEM, and here’s the answer: The Base 11 Space Challenge enhances the STEM talent pipeline and supports inclusion by requiring university teams to strengthen their own talent pipeline. By partnering with local community colleges, high schools and nonprofits to share outreach activities, teams can engage and ultimately recruit more diversified talent to enhance and sustain their teams over the four years of the challenge and beyond.

Landon Taylor: The Base 11 Space Challenge is the direct result of two things that happened last fall. The first was the overwhelming success of the Aerospace Workforce Development Symposium & Expo, which was hosted by Base 11, Dassault Systèmes and University of California, Irvine. The second was that I read the book “Bold” by Peter Diamandis around that time, which spoke to the power of bold thinking, incentive prizes and crowdsourcing. I realized a $1 million incentive prize, if designed right, could really change the game. Fortunately, we had a private donor who agreed, and funded the prize purse.

Bunshaft: About 120 people from about a dozen schools and 26 companies attended our announcement event on June 6, which was headlined by former NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin. He serves as the exact role model of what is possible for young children when they are made aware of opportunities in STEM, given access to those opportunities and instilled with the belief that they can accomplish them. Since that event, 170 individuals have signed up, expressing their interest in the challenge.

About Jim Romeo

Jim Romeo is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, VA. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.