For the love of space

27 September 2019 | General News
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NUS SEDS members working on their Mars rover

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing on 20 July, a passionate group of students came together to launch one of the University’s newest student interest groups — NUS Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (NUS SEDS).

Modelled after SEDS Earth, an international non-profit organisation, NUS SEDS’ mission is to inspire and empower youth to participate and make an impact in space exploration. With Year 4 NUS Electrical Engineering student Ramu Vairavan at the helm, the core team of 13 students embarked on this endeavour after noticing that there was a lack of such communities on the campus, aside from the NUS Satellite Technology and Research Centre and the NUS Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing, and Processing (CRISP).

 “We aim to provide a much-needed platform for students interested in space to come together and share experiences, develop their technical and non-technical skills, and bridge the gap between students, the space industry and academia in Singapore,” shared Ramu.

“I hope the space sector will grow to a scale that attracts a sizeable portion of fresh graduates, and warrant the creation of dedicated graduate programs. In time, we hope to build the reputation for NUS as Asia’s top space engineering university,” said Vice President of NUS SEDS, NUS Physics Year 4 student Yeoh Jun Kai.

Despite being a new kid on the block, NUS SEDS already has a repertoire of plans and projects in the works. These include a weekly talk series, the New Frontiers Series featuring speakers from space and related industries to share their experiences, as well as a range of engineering projects such as building a Mars Rover and autonomous vehicles. Their ambitious goals also include developing a Propulsion Research Unit with the long-term goal of building Single Stage to Orbit rocket engines; and a Geospatial Research Unit looking into geographical information system and geospatial analytics.

I envision a vibrant community where students from different faculties come together and engage in activities that advance the space frontier, be it by conducting research for space, petitioning for space laws or creating start-ups from projects. This may not happen this year or next, but I believe if we build the foundation right and keep at it despite hurdles, it will become a reality in the near future.

NUS SEDS’ reach has gone beyond the NUS community. They recently partnered with Hatch, a social enterprise that helps disadvantaged youth with employment. As the students were learning about robotics, the NUS SEDS team spoke on electronics and computer engineering, hoping to spark an interest in space.  “We believe that NUS SEDS has a responsibility to engage with the wider community. We will try our best to engage the community with space-related projects whenever the opportunity arises,” said NUS Computer Science Year 3 student Ian Wu, NUS SEDS Outreach Team Lead.

Visitors which included start-ups and companies have been impressed with their projects, particularly the rover. Participants at the New Frontiers talk series have also been enthusiastic, often staying back to discuss topics on space. They included high school students, national servicemen, postgraduates and undergraduates from various background.

The group has expanded rapidly since their launch, with many signing up for various project groups. “I envision a vibrant community where students from different faculties come together and engage in activities that advance the space frontier, be it by conducting research for space, petitioning for space laws or creating start-ups from projects. This may not happen this year or next, but I believe if we build the foundation right and keep at it despite hurdles, it will become a reality in the near future," said Ramu.