Three pupils from Overijssel work in the unique world of NASA

A dream came true for three technasium students from Overijssel; they were allowed to go to the United Space School in Houston, Texas, last summer. Bram Knobbe, Ryan Olbertz and Ediz Sari did not just get this special trip as a gift. Earlier this year, they participated in the Countdown to Houston. A competition organised by Techniekpact Twente and the United Space School

In short

  • Behind-the-scenes look at space organisation NASA in Houston for three winners from Overijssel of competition by Techniekpact Twente and United Space School
  • Unforgettable trip to Houston for three technasium students from Overijssel

Global Goal

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United Space School is an annual event in which 25 countries participate. The winners take a look behind the scenes at space agency NASA and work in Houston with a large group of peers to prepare for a manned flight to Mars.

Final assignment

Six technasium pupils competed against each other at The Gallery in Enschede earlier this year. Bram, Ryan and Ediz ended up winning. As a final assignment, the students were given the question of what a next generation of Explorers for Mars, Phobos or Deimos looks like. In the final, the youngsters presented their ideas in a video pitch, after which they were put to the test by an expert jury.

Ryan: "I designed a plane that can search for potential landing sites and resources. This idea came up after I created a quick trade-off matrix to contrast different types of vehicles, giving them points based on how well they would perform in the situations they might encounter. The presentation was very tense at first, I was only fourth in line. This took the pressure off a little and I became a little more familiar with the judges' way of asking questions. For the presentation itself, we had to make a three-minute video. It's a good thing I knew my theory well, because the judges' questions were quite complicated at times."

Bram started with his final assignment by gathering information about the different destinations the rover could go to. "I asked myself a number of questions, such as 'what is already clear about the locations?' 'What do I want to investigate?' And 'why would we want to know these things?' That's how I found out that there was much less information about Mars' moons compared to Mars itself. Then I went on to design the rover based on the prevailing conditions."

Ediz explains his approach: "The explorer has to investigate lava tunnels and caves on Mars. So it has to be able to manoeuvre well and climb steep walls. At the same time, it must also be light, easily go without maintenance, not use much energy, study geology of Mars and it must be able to search for life. I always kept in the back of my mind that the design of the bullet train owes a lot to the kingfisher. So I quickly looked to the animal kingdom. I asked myself the question: which animal(s) can manoeuvre well and descend and ascend vertically? I quickly came up with a snake. After all, the snake can get to the most difficult places with little effort. So the animal became the focal point of my design.


All three convinced the judges and they were rewarded with an impressive trip. But they also had to work for this first, Ryan explains. "After I won, I was placed in a Google Classroom with other winners from different countries. Here we were given our homework, in which we were tested on our knowledge and problem solving. Ultimately, this would determine which of the five teams we would get into. These teams all had their own functions, and thus their own tasks. Six weeks later, I was on a plane to Houston."

Ediz: "There we embarked on a beautiful, interesting and instructive journey, during which I saw and learned a huge amount and met students from many different countries. " Bram: "It was great. The days were long, filled with varied activities. We visited the Houson Space Center, a baseball game and an appearance by several astronauts. At the university, we were able to work on our project."


One of the highlights according to the boys was the tour of the Saturn V, given by George Abbey at the Houston Space Centre. But they also learnt from other moments during the trip. Bram: "In Houston, we experienced American culture up close, but also got to meet people from other cultures. We also visited important places concerning the moon landings and saw and did many beautiful and special things. In short; it was an unforgettable trip during which I made friends all over the world!"

Bram, Ryan and Ediz found it an unforgettable experience and can recommend everyone to join the competition next year.

Date: 9 November 2022 |

Source of tekst: Bram Knobbe, Ryan Olbertz, Ediz Sari, Techniekpact Twente |

Author: Marloes Neeskens

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