Meet your Dutch Delegates to United Space School: Sophie, Thijs, and Hannah

As many of you know, I had the honour of helping choose the students that will represent the Netherlands at the United Space School this summer. With a record number of applicants, we knew we were onto something. After our intensive finale, we had chosen two wonderful candidates, and yet the team of coordinators still felt compelled to encourage a third student to enter the competitive international competition for the final extra spot at space school. We quickly gathered and sent in her portfolio of work, helped her prepare for her interview, and then I headed off for a month long vacation. Last night, just having returned to Europe, I received the news that not only will we send two students, our third student had impressed the board of directors in Houston so much that she was chosen as one of the very few ‘at large’ attendees.

It is therefore with great pride that I introduce you to our Dutch delegation for Space School 2017. The films below were made by the candidates to introduce the jury to their solutions based on Earth Observation data, inspired by this summer’s launch of Sentinel 5p.

Along with these videos, the students had also completed an English-language motivation letter, an initial project about closed loop life support systems during the semifinals, and a report detailing their chosen application.

Sophie Hesp impressed us with a pragmatic solution for Schiphol Airport:


Thijs Beene had an idea for tracking airplanes from space:


Finally, Hannah van Gemert came up with a plan to track down illegal deforestation via satellite imagery:


The Competition 

This year, for the first time ever, three Dutch students will attend the United Space School. I strongly believe that this extremely strong showing is due to how the competition has grown over the last two years. Thanks to Techniekpact Twente, we have expanded from sending students from just a single technasium (a technical high school concept focusing on group projects to enhance technical studies) in Enschede to reaching technasia across Twente and beyond. This year’s top ten students were some of the best applicants that I have seen in the years I have supported the school since 2002. Not only do we have a steadily growing candidate pool here in the Netherlands, the rounds of work from the students gives them a portfolio of knowledge to bring to the programme. 

Having evaluated each candidate’s portfolio of work during the finale, I was very familiar with what our top ten had accomplished. But it wasn’t until I sat down and helped Hannah put together her application for the general competition that I realised and appreciated how proud we can be about what the process of the competition itself accomplishes. It’s not just a beautiful experience for the winners, it truly teaches these students a lot along the way.

Another of our finalists stated ended her video with the sentiment that no matter the outcome she valued the process, and it truly is extremely rewarding to see how much each of our finalists learned in the process. I truly believe that with the way this competition is currently set up, everybody wins.

United Space School

The United Space School will take place this summer in Houston, Texas. Around 50 students from 25+ countries plan a mission to Mars with the help of NASA engineers and scientists. 

I’m often asked what students learn at the school, and the answer is different for each student. When I went to the international space school 15 years ago, I went in having applied with a project on black holes, and determined to be a rocket scientist. After my team interview, I was chosen for a leadership role, and came out at the end of the two weeks with a new respect for working together on an international scale. Over the years that I have supported space school I have seen as many students learn about communicating well and working in teams as I have seen learn about orbital dynamics and propulsion systems. 

While each year is different, and I do not know exactly what awaits our attendees, I know that they are the most well prepared student team we have ever sent, and that this experience will have a positive impact on all three of their lives for years to come. 

Godspeed Sophie, Thijs, and Hannah!

Bron: LinkedIn,