04 Sep, 2021
10 : 00
Spectacular! If there was just one word to describe the opportunity to listen in to voices from space, this is what YCIS Hong Kong Year 7’s Leo Yeung Chun Hoi, would say. Transferring back from YCIS Chongqing to the Hong Kong school this year, he considered himself extremely fortunate. Hugo Cheung Yat Hei from Year 11 was equally animated. “I’m just so excited,” he exclaimed.
It was no ordinary Friday afternoon for these two. After all, they had been selected to participate in a live linkup on 3 September with orbiting taikonauts aboard China’s Tianhe space station.
Hosted by The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the HKSAR Government and the China Manned Space Agency, the event attracted great attention and was seen as a unique opportunity for the Mainland to showcase its aerospace achievements to Hong Kong youth.
It was a herculean task sifting through a sea of highly motivated YCIS HK students, all with a keen interest in space, to pick just two candidates for the space chat.
Enthusiasm overflowed. This was a unique opportunity to talk with men at the very frontiers of the known world. Excitement over this brush with space speaks volumes about the YCIS science curriculum that has ignited much curiosity and interest.
According to Mr Rob Kitley, Year 10 Student Progress Leader and Physics Teacher, the school builds a strong foundation for aspiring young scientists. The curriculum is carefully designed.
Specialists first outline the basics of biology, chemistry and physics through a Project-Based Learning approach in Lower Secondary.
In Upper Secondary, students delve deeper into these subjects. ‘Space physics’ falls within the physics curriculum for both IGCSE and IBDP. This is where students get a chance to explore the mysteries of the solar system, including the life cycles of stars, black holes, nebulae, and evolutionary models of the universe. And that’s just scratching the surface.
The YCIS science curriculum helped Leo build a solid foundation, encouraging him to delve into the inner workings of spaceships and other esoteric areas. For Hugo, the school’s STEM activities have been invaluable in sparking his interest in space technology. He felt both boys had been given a fair chance. Rather than opting for random selection, the school had been “extremely fair in allowing all students to compete for this unique opportunity.”
During the live event, they observed daily life aboard the space station – how tea was carefully squeezed out of a teabag, how water was purified, and how foods like apple and yoghurt were stored in a vacuum. They were delighted to learn that taikonauts even managed to connect with their families once a week via video call. They could regularly watch the news and also squeeze in some leisure time.
Both boys had done a lot of research on China’s space development and were deeply moved by what they saw firsthand. Hugo said he was inspired by classmates who worked with him on his presentations and research.
For Leo, watching these “top professionals” go through their paces was “hard to describe in words.”
Mr Rob Kitley described the live chat with space as a “truly unique opportunity for students to make a connection with some of that rarest breed of scientists – the taikonauts, who are taking our understanding of science beyond our atmosphere.”
He is excited about China’s progress in space technology. “China has one of the best-funded and most ambitious space programmes in the world,” he says, pointing to the near completion by the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) of a “permanent Chinese Tiangong space station… a very impressive achievement.”
Asked about their aspirations, both the YCIS candidates outlined big dreams. Leo wants to research a range of stable heat-resistant materials for future space missions, while Hugo, eyes gleaming, said he might like to venture into space.
Ms Sam Sze, Co-Principal of YCIS Hong Kong, takes great pride in China’s strides in space. She feels students have benefitted from the opportunity to see one of their school mottoes – "Align with science and technology" – in action. She was struck by the students’ detailed preparation and research.
“YCIS is committed to nurturing students to be the leaders of tomorrow… compassionate, empathetic, and with a global outlook in pursuit of a better world,” she said. The event had enabled students to “experience the mysteries of the universe” and further motivated them in their pursuit of science and technology.