UWTSD’s Mission to Mars for Year 12 Students


Students from across Wales were challenged with designing equipment suitable for a mission to Mars during a visit to University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) as a part of Headstart Cymru. 

Year 12 students attended the three-day event at UWTSD’s ALEX Design Exchange in Swansea where they were presented with the brief ‘Mission to Mars’. They were informed how, for decades, NASA and JPL have developed the technology to safely deliver unmanned missions to Mars. The students’ challenge was to design future proposals for the human exploration of the Red Planet. The brief required the design of three vital forms of equipment needed to support such a mission:

1. A ‘vehicle’ for exploring the planet

2. A sustainable and safe ‘habitat’

3. A ‘robot’ to support the human explorers

The event was organised by UWTSD’s Swansea College of Art and Faculty of Applied Computing and Engineering, in collaboration with Engineering Education Scheme Wales (EESW) and design software company Autodesk, as a part of Headstart Cymru.

Headstart Cymru provides an opportunity for students in Year 12 to spend three days at university prior to making their UCAS application. It is a residential summer school where students stay in typical undergraduate accommodation at the university, attending broad-based courses looking at a range of engineering and design disciplines. Courses are designed to give students a real taste of what it is like to study at university.

During the challenge students were given one-day training in 3D computer design software Fusion360 by Autodesk, who flew in a specialist trainer from Munich. Also in attendance was the company’s UK Education Manager, Mike Westlake, who provided additional support. Run as a competition, the students worked in teams and were supported by lecturers and student ambassadors studying engineering and product design. They used real modelling and computer aided modelling in Fusion360 to develop their ideas. On the final day the students presented their design proposals to a judging panel of Ian Williams from UWTSD’s Creative Industries Research and Innovation Centre (CIRIC) and Dr Ross Head from UWTSD’s Cerebra Innovation Centre.

Dr Sean Jenkins, Head of Design and Applied Arts within the Swansea College of Art at UWTSD said:

“It was a great pleasure for the Swansea College of Art to bring together local students and teachers, our design experts and Autodesk practitioners. The project was a worthwhile experience for all involved and the Headstart Cymru DesignNow Challenge will be a regular event in the future. 

"The students were able to enhance important core design skills and creative thinking that will help them whether they decide to follow a career in design or engineering and the experience provided them with a real insight into higher education.  Most importantly they now understand the relationship between these two disciplines and where they might fit in.  This is vital for them to make informed decisions about their future.  With the challenges that design and technology education is currently facing in schools throughout the UK we hope that events such as this will help support and sustain this vital aspect of the curriculum and open students eyes to how studying a degree in design or engineering can make them highly employable graduates who will ultimately shape all our futures.

“The aims of Headstart Cymru match that of UWTSD. Inclusivity is one of our core values and we champion learning without barriers, widening participation within Higher Education and presenting it as an option to those who may not have considered University. Projects like this also add value to the learning experience and can create enthusiasm within students, demonstrating the many exciting careers that are available.”

Mike Westlake, Autodesk UK and Ireland Manager said:

"At the Headstart Cymru event we tried to give students the best possible taste of what it would be like to be a designer or an engineer for a couple of days. I think still, unfortunately, that engineering has got  that connotation that it’s some dirty trade where you end up covered in oil at the end of the day, and that’s just not true. Events such as this are to make sure people are aware of what their career is going to be like, especially in the world of STEM. I believe there would be much more interest in STEM if people realised that design and engineering is such a massive industry and that you could be working on pretty much anything.

"Autodesk already offers a whole range of free products to the education community including software and learning resources that put these tools and new technologies into context for the classroom and real life applications. The idea is to encourage students and teachers to use new technology in a valuable and forward-thinking way.

"We are constantly hearing about the STEM skills shortage, but the skill isn’t the shortage, it’s having these bright young students that we encountered at the event directed in the right way to a career in the right industry. Companies such as Autodesk have a responsibility to help train kids and teachers on how to use all of this new technology because at the end of the day the design and engineering companies are going to want people to have these STEM based skills.”

Sarah Lewis, member of the EESW/STEM Cymru team, attended the course and the Autodesk Fusion session:

“The Headstart Cymru event at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea was a fantastic event that was well received by all students who attended.  Everyone was engaged throughout the hands-on CAD workshop with Mickey Wakefield and were eager to get stuck in straight away.

The students were given a true university experience over the three days and gained a good understanding of university life, ranging from being in a busy lab environment, working to deadlines, working in teams and with lecturers as well as getting the opportunity to tour the university campus.  This experience means the students will find the transition to university less daunting.”


Note to Editor

1. For more information please contact Steven Stokes, Principal Corporate Communications and PR Officer, on 07872 423788 or email steven.stokes@uwtsd.ac.uk.

2. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David was established in 2010 through the merger of the University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College, Carmarthen. On 1 August 2013 the Swansea Metropolitan University merged with the University.

3. The University’s Royal Charter 1828 is the oldest in Wales, and it is third behind Oxford and Cambridge in Wales and England. HRH Prince of Wales is the Patron of the University.