A new space age

Zeeshan Nabi, GEMS International School’s Chief Innovation and Digital Officer, shares his thoughts on the rise of space projects and his school’s new Centre of Excellence for Aviation, Aeronautics and Space

All of us will have looked up to the sky at some point in our lives and dreamt about flying through space, speeding past distant planets and maybe even visiting unknown lands beyond. And over time, thanks to rapid technological developments, country-level investment and space tourism projects such as those by Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, space travel has shifted from an impossible dream to something within reach for more and more people.

On 25 September 2019, Hazzaa Al Mansoori embarked on a historic mission and became the first person from the United Arab Emirates to go to space. Speaking at the Humans in Space 2019 Symposium, Al Mansoori made clear that he was one of those children that once looked up to the sky in wonderment. Addressing a room packed full of guests, including a number of wide-eyed students, he captured the audience’s imagination with tales about his background, training and mission.

Zeeshan Nabi is the Chief Innovation and Digital Officer at GIS

During the event’s panel session, experts from Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) discussed the inception of the space mission and the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, to develop a sustainable space programme.

It is clear that space travel is not merely a one-off, but here to stay and grow in the UAE. Al Mansoori described the dreams he had of being an astronaut and how he felt the closest he could get to this was by becoming a pilot. He studied and trained hard and went on to become one of the UAE’s best pilots, which eventually provided him with the launchpad he needed to become an astronaut.

Aviation has been at the heart of the UAE’s growth and development as a country. The country has become a leader in air trade facilitation. According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), the UAE’s aviation sector is set to develop even further and by 2037, could support 1.4 million jobs and contribute $128 billion to the nation’s GDP.
With the rise of the space and aviation sectors, it is now more vital than ever that we give young people a head start. The opportunity to work within these sectors is no longer just a dream; it is becoming a reality for increasing numbers of young people.

GIS aims to become the hub for K-12 education in aviation and aeronautics

Space education hub

GEMS Education recently launched five Centres of Excellence, aiming to blur the traditional boundaries of school, university and employment and create a new pathway for students to learn and rapidly progress in key areas identified as having great importance. One of these five Centres of Excellence is based at GEMS International School – Al Khail (GIS) and focuses on aviation, aeronautics and space.

GIS aims to become the hub for K-12 education in this field. GIS students will have access to a range of experiences, credentials and qualifications. Working with expert, industry-leading partners, students will have access to unique experiences and be better prepared for the upcoming rise of these industries.

Students will have access to flight simulators, drone technology, specialised curriculum content and pathways, as well as access to leading experts

Students will have access to flight simulators, drone technology, specialised curriculum content and pathways, as well as access to leading experts in the field. Students will have opportunities to work on real-world aviation projects and we are working towards providing flight time for young aspiring pilots. We have developed key partnerships with industry leaders such as University of South Wales and we are hoping to establish partnerships with the likes of Emirates Airline and Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. Our students will gain exposure to these organisations through various methods of collaboration such as internships, specialised projects and bespoke pathways.

Research and development are important for the longevity of the programme at GIS and we will lead training and support across the network, with the development of student and expert committees. GEMS Education has a large network of schools and GIS is now the hub of this network for all things related to aviation and space. GIS will actively develop incubation hubs for best practice and generate and publish the latest thinking and research.

Teacher development is another vital element and GIS will become the professional centre for developing teacher excellence and capability. It will upskill teachers to be able to deliver technical STEM content-focused education around aviation, aeronautics and space.

Finally, at GIS we want to develop a culture within the school that focuses on aviation. As part of this, the school will lead major learning events annually for students across the network in aviation. Indeed, aviation is set to become the ‘heart’ of many of the incentives and projects across the school.