More than half of all Spaniards say they believe in homeopathic remedies and other undemonstrated pseudo sciences, according to the latest Social Perception of Science Survey performed by Fecyt. The gap between society and science is palpable, and, in many cases, the lack of appropriate content curbs the curiosity of potential scientists. This is just what the young scientist and entrepreneur Raycho Raychev experienced when he tried to obtain more information specifically about space while living in his home country, Bulgaria. So this space buff decided to create the Space Challenges Program, an online platform focused on space that offers content and challenges to stimulate future space entrepreneurs. The success of Raychev's idea has led to his inclusion in MIT Technology Review, Spanish edition´s Innovators Under 35 Europe 2017.
The Space Challenges program has two primary streams: Spaceport and EnduroSat. Spaceport is the largest digital space education platform in Europe, with over 5,000 active users. Its creator explains that the website "democratizes the access to efficient education" and frames learning as a game. This format epitomizes the philosophy of failing first in order to succeed later on.
Users can choose between a wide variety of themes, like robotics and space medicine with different levels of difficulty. As users surpass each level, they earn credits which they can put towards an official academic certification, since Spaceport has signed agreements with scientific departments at several European universities. Although the virtual platform aspires to bridge the gap between educational institutions and bolster traditional education, its creator also aims to maintain his status as an independent alternative.
EnduroSat is more focused in the technological arena, specifically on the design and construction of CubeSats, tiny satellites used primarily to conduct space research. To address the elevated cost of conventional satellites and the limited access students enjoy to them, this company offers low cost models that aim to allow any educational center or student to be an active participant in the sector. "The progress in this realm will only be possible when space technology is accesible to a larger number of people. Opening the door for researchers means opening the door to their experiments and solutions," Raychev explains. EnduroSat's clients are mainly space agencies and universities from around the world that use the satellites to operate missions. In parallel, EnduroSat donates satellites through a registration program open to the public.
The next challenges Spaceport will face will be to scale up the number of courses offered, which currently include over 125 hours of content, and expanding its reach to new audiences by exporting the model to more countries and adapting the tool according to new trends. EnduroSat, on the other hand, plans on performing its first satellite launches towards the end of 2017, and the company is also progressing its own scientific experiments. Both initiatives are developing smoothly and comprise an interconnected "ecosystem" in which the educational program trains ingineers and technicians for the company.
The co-founder of Luz Wavelabs and jury member for the Innovators Under 35 Europe 2017 competition, Rubén Criado, highlights Raycho Raychev's "great entrepreneurial spirit...his project has the potential to achieve a complex and costly technology which is apt for a wide range of users."
By María Hernández
Translation: Teresa Woods