Empowering the next generation: Sunderland Space Camp at the National Space Academy

Resourcing Advisor Asha Parmar shares her journey in the space industry and her passion for inspiring young minds in STEM through Viasat’s Space Camps and STEM outreach programs.

Viasat Resourcing Advisor Asha Parmar connects with students during Sunderland Space Camp at the National Space Academy.
Viasat Resourcing Advisor Asha Parmar connects with students during Sunderland Space Camp at the National Space Academy.

From an early age, Resourcing Advisor Asha Parmar had a natural inclination towards science; however, she never thought she would end up working in the space industry. Her curiosity about the world and a deep desire to understand its inner workings led her to pursue a BSc in Physics with Astrophysics from the University of Leicester. After completing her degree, Asha began her career as an Education Officer at the National Space Centre.

Her journey – like so many people’s – has continually surprised her, taking her from controlling satellites in her role as a Spacecraft Controller to going to huge space conferences and meeting astronauts, to multiple roles within the space industry. While she has enjoyed every second since joining the space sector, she understands how difficult and daunting it must be for young people to imagine the successes, setbacks, and the almost immeasurable, unpredictable opportunities that make any career.

“Working at Viasat is an opportunity I never thought that I would get. I am very passionate about the Space industry and what satellites can do, and even now, I take every opportunity I can to inspire the younger generation to feel the same,” said Asha.

In October, Viasat partnered with Lockheed Martin to hold two Space Camps in Sunderland, for children in Years 6 and 12 respectively, with educational support from the National Space Academy.

The week was packed full of exciting workshops with dozens of students, speakers from various areas of the industry, and experiments. One of the guiding principles of our Space Camps with Lockheed Martin is to inspire young people to explore the possibilities of studying STEM subjects and to show them there are many paths to success across a wide range of roles.

From interacting with robots and building a comet using dry ice, to hearing about training astronauts and learning about the impact of space debris, there was a wide range of topics covered to inspire the attendees.

“The energy from the Year 6 group was high and their enthusiasm was infectious from start to end. They were full of amazing questions about black holes, neutron stars, satellites, and much, much more. The Year 12 group in contrast were quiet and focused by comparison with many showing incredible insight already into our industry. The noise level rose, however, when they attended the robotics lab where they could not hide their enthusiasm for the Martian rovers and Boston Dynamics Spot robot. As a mentor, you could almost imagine many of them working with us in a few years,” shared Asha.

When asked about her favorite memory from volunteering, she fondly told us about the day the students were tasked with launching a rocket.

“At first, the students didn’t think their rocket would go very far when they launched it. Instead, they set a new record for the National Space Academy, and it landed on the top of a bus shelter. The group was very quiet up until that point, but this helped them to come out of their shell and they became so enthusiastic and excited,” said Asha.

Following the huge success of this Camp, Viasat will be running a second event in London during the Spring Half Term for year 10 students. Additionally, Space Camps is one of the several youth STEM outreach programs Viasat supports in the UK. This year, Viasat is hosting its first-ever UK STEM competition called Viasat Beyond: Space with the goal to support the next generation of UK engineers, artists, space lovers, and scientists in understanding, embracing, and supporting safe and sustainable space through harnessing new and creative ideas in the areas of policy, practice, and technology.