Around 200 pupils from seven local councils – Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire – enjoyed an out of this world opportunity as they embarked on a jam-packed three-day programme of science experiments in the hope that theirs would be selected to be sent to space.

The winning group, who will see their experiment tested out by NASA astronauts on the International Space Station, is Interstellar Intellectuals* with their experiment exploring whether artificially increasing root pressure will improve plant growth on the International Space Station, something which is compromised in microgravity.

The experiment has the potential to make a significant impact on future crop production in space.

The judges were impressed by the original nature of the experiment, the in-depth research the team carried out and the potential benefits it has for life in space.

As well as working on their experiments, the pupils and students have been learning more about what life is like in outer space from former NASA astronaut, Dr Michael Foale, the most experienced British-born astronaut in the history of human spaceflight.

Michael has flown into space on six missions and was Commander of the International Space Station. He brought the Hubble Space Telescope back to life and played an integral role in saving the Russian ‘Mir’ Space Station as it tumbled out of control, following the only known collision in outer space.

He said: “I have been so very impressed by the attitudes and ingenuity of the school pupils here in Scotland. Congratulations to them all.”

The purpose of the interactive Mission Discovery programme is to teach young people about space and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related subjects, in a unique and engaging way.

The initiative’s aim is to raise the aspirations of students to consider STEM subjects whilst demonstrating the breadth of career options they offer. 

Chris Barber, Founder of the International Space School Education Trust (ISSET), said: “It has been great working with UWS who have the vision and commitment to give out of this world creative opportunities to so many of our young people.”

Professor Craig Mahoney, UWS principal and vice-chancellor, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the pupils and students who took part in UWS’ Mission Discovery 2019 space school at our Paisley campus this week.

“A special well done must also go to the winning team, Interstellar Intellectuals, with their creative idea to investigate the effects of artificially increasing root pressure to mitigate the effect of microgravity and thus improve plant growth in space.”

“The UWS Mission Discovery programme is a unique opportunity for participants to meet, learn from, and work alongside a NASA astronaut and leading NASA, ISSET and UWS scientists.”

“At UWS, we are committed to developing the best talent in STEM-related subjects and this programme has demonstrated the vast and exciting career opportunities available to those who pursue this path.”

The winning team were:

  • Sophie Hughes, Castlehead High School, Renfrewshire
  • Jamie Macpherson, Woodfarm High School, East Renfrewshire
  • Sam Clark, Port Glasgow High School, Inverclyde
  • Nairne Gillespie, Clydeview Academy, Inverclyde
  • Maryam Khan, Eastwood High School, East Renfrewshire
  • Mollie Quinne, Paisley Grammar School, Renfrewshire