Student Success at Viasat Beyond Space Sustainability Competition

Last week Krish T. (L6th) was incredibly fortunate to join a satellite communications company, Viasat, at their European headquarters as a finalist in their space sustainability competition. Read on to get his account of this exciting opportunity.

Writes Krish T. (L6)

The competition started by competing in two initial phases, for which I had to devise a proposition to enhance space sustainability. There were no limitations placed upon our proposal, however, the first two phases entailed both written and video formats of submissions. The first two phases were also aided by virtual programmes, in which industry experts provided general space sustainability-related advice.

After the long-awaited results, I was informed that I had made it to the final round! It was only at this point at which I was made aware that twelve hundred students entered 'Phase 1', filtering down to thirty five in 'Phase 2', with five finalists competing in 'Phase 3'. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic, and I couldn't wait to present in-person. Fast-forward one month of research, formulation, and practice- it was time to leave for London.

Day 1, Wednesday 24th April

The day started bright and early, getting ready for a short walk to the Viasat European HQ with the other four finalists. Upon arriving at the Viasat offices, I was amazed and instantly came to realise the magnitude of the event. The day was kicked off by being greeted by the entire Viasat Beyond: Space Crew, including the two expert mentors that had been specifically assigned to me in preparation for the final round.

The rest of the morning consisted of a tour around the futuristic offices, which have only been open for a month! This provided insight into cybersecurity; orbiting satellite simulations; corporate relations; control centres (mirroring the high-tech movie scenes); and much more! After settling down after an exciting morning, it was time to embark upon an intense day of preparation. Being the day before our final presentations, we were given time with our mentors, and presentation advice from a professional presentation coach. The day was nicely broken up by meals overlooking London from the amazing rooftops, as well documentary-style interviews and photoshoots with a professional camera-crew. The day came to an end with some fun space trivia over a lovely dinner. This allowed me to return to the hotel for an early night- as earlier on, I had been drawn from a hat to be the first finalist to present the next day.

Day 2, Thursday 25th April

After an energising early-morning breakfast, I made my way over to the Viasat offices to start with final preparations before my presentation. After a couple of run throughs and a slice of cake, I was ready.

At 11:00am, I entered the presentation room to set up my handouts, meet and greet the judges, alongside the other audience members. The panel consisted of a collection of industry experts, ranging from directors of the UK Space Agency to the Royal Institution. After initial introductions were completed, my presentation commenced. To deliver and communicate my idea effectively, I had prepared rigorously. This was done by creating 3D models and simulations of my design idea, as well as presenting various research papers and information. I was given twenty minutes to present, allowing for a further ten minutes of questions and answers between myself and the panel of judges. Having presented in what felt like five minutes, I thanked the audience and made my exit. Further conversations ensued, with many members of the audience approaching me to consider commercially pursuing my idea, with many offering their expertise and time for this venture.

After my presentation, my mentors, parents, and I enjoyed a rather refreshing break on the office terrace. This served as a form of a debrief, and conversations regarding next steps with Viasat. With my main presentation completed, I enjoyed a relaxing day of exploring the headquarters, testing state-of-the-art VR headsets, learning more about what it is my mentors specialise in, as well as further enrichment into the world of satellite communication.

As all finalists finished with their respective presentations, I made my way to the awards ceremony. This was an enormous event, in which hundreds of industry experts attended to learn more about the competition, and us, as the finalists. This was an amazing opportunity to network, with connections made here already having led to further engineering opportunities. After the initial drinks and pre-ceremony festivities, we all went to indulge in the lovely array of Mediterranean food which preceded the awards.

With dinner completed, the time of greatest anticipation had dawned upon me. After a long-awaited reveal, I was ecstatic to hear my name be announced as the second-place award winner! I felt immensely satisfied to see the months of hard work and dedication for this project culminate in such a result. Ending the night with further networking (supplemented with Nitrogen-frozen ice-cream), I started to come to terms with the extraordinary and transformative two days that I had experienced.

I am extremely grateful for all of the opportunities afforded to me through this competition - which serves as a reminder that opportunities can arise when, and where we least expect them. I am eager to further develop my idea into a product fit for commercial use cases, and I plan on utilising the significant educational grant, extensive network, and extended mentorship (won as a part of my second-place award) as grounds to aid this development. I look forward to joining Viasat for another week of work experience in the summer, and I am extremely proud to have represented Merchant Taylors' throughout this entire process.

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