Highams Park school is the first school in the country to work alongside space scientists for the development of new research, helping to create data for the forthcoming Twinkle mission. Twinkle is the first space mission with a dedicated educational programme, EduTwinkle, which targets students of all ages and makes students not just observers, but participants, in exoplanet research.
Involving students in state-of-the-art research from an early age eliminates the idea that science is only for the scientists and empowers young people to explore STEM subjects. It is also a great opportunity to dispel harmful stereotypes about who is suitable for STEM careers, while leaving students feeling invested in modern science.
The latest EduTwinkle programme is ORBYTS (Original Research By Young Twinkle Students), which links young PhD and post-doc scientists with groups of secondary school students. Together they perform original research associated with the Twinkle Space Mission, and work towards publications in peer-reviewed journals.
The current ORBYTS cohort is made up exclusively of Highams Park students, and it focuses on molecular astrophysics, with each group of students becoming responsible for one molecule of astronomical interest. Currently there are fifteen 16-18yrs old students working on developing the molecular data for acetylene (C2H2), titanium oxide (TiO) and methane (CH4) all molecules of extreme significance in the study of alien planets.
The ORBYTS programme had an extremely successful launch at UCL on the 25th of January, where the students networked with the Twinkle team and the UCL scientists, and attended a graduate level tutorial to prepare them for the upcoming research.