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Spaceward Bound Expedition: Australia 2009

photo of Naomi Mathers

Naomi Mathers
Research Scientist & Curriculum Developer
Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC)
Spaceward Bound Australia 2009

I have been an educator at the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) in Melbourne since it opened in 2006.  I use my background in Aerospace Engineering and my passion for space technology and exploration, to develop programs for students and educators that present science as dynamic, exciting and relevant.

I completed my degree in Aerospace Engineering at RMIT University and I am currently completing my PhD, investigating the possibility of using inflatable structure to provide portable, land-based, direct satellite communication. This type of lightweight, affordable technology would support disaster response, tele-education and tele-medecine as well as the need for lightweight communication solutions on the Moon and Mars. 

In addition to my position at VSSEC, I am a member of the Engineers Australia National Committee for Space Engineering, the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Space Education and Outreach Committee and the Asia Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF) Space Education and Awareness Working Group. Through these groups I help to promote the benefits of space technology to society and engage the industries future scientists and engineers.

VSSEC was established to increase Australia’s capacity in science and mathematics and raise awareness of the applications of space technology. It uses the context of space to deliver science content in an engaging and relevant way, emphasising the application of science, problem solving and teamwork. VSSEC offers a Mission to Mars, a Mission to the Orbiting Space Laboratory and other curriculum based programs such as Astronomy, Astrophysics and Chemical Analysis. VSSEC is currently developing a Robotic Mission to Mars, allowing students to control a rover on VSSEC’s simulated Mars surface via a web-based interface.

One of VSSEC’s strengths is its collaboration with universities and industry. These partnerships ensure that the material presented at VSSEC is technically accurate and represents the latest advances in science and engineering. The robotic mission is a perfect example of this collaboration with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) at The University of Sydney constructing the rover and providing the control system, the School of Geosciences at Monash University providing technical advice and data for the scientific investigation, the Games Technology Research Laboratory at La Trobe University developing the web-based Mission Control software and VSSEC developing the curriculum material.

I look forward to sharing the experience of VSSEC using Mars as a context for teaching science and taking back to VSSEC what I learn from working with the scientists and engineers on Spaceward Bound.


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Editor: Linda Conrad
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: April 2007
Teachers Contact: Liza Coe