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Life on Mars: Kids are looking up to space as a solution to Earth’s environmental problems

As the 50th anniversary of the moon landing approaches, new research has found children are looking to space just as much as their grandparents were 50 years ago, but for very different reasons. Nearly two-thirds* (61 per cent) of children are worried about environmental damage to the planet, with 49 per cent believing we will have to look to Space for somewhere to live in the future.

The research conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) amongst children aged six to 16 and their parents shows over half (61 per cent) of children believe climate change issues could mean humankind will leave the planet. In fact, ‘planet hopping’ might happen sooner than we think with 48 per cent of children saying a human colony on Mars will be established in their lifetime, while nearly three in five (59 per cent) expect that they will be able to visit space on holiday in the future.

Worries about the future of Earth are not solely confined to children as two thirds (66 per cent) of parents admit they are ‘future-proofing’ their children to ensure they have the engineering skills required to tackle a future threatened by climate change. In fact, more than a third (37 per cent) of parents say they would like to send their children to an extracurricular activity such as a mathematics, coding or science club, with STEM activities proving more popular than music (34 per cent) and drama (33 per cent) lessons.

Children too are becoming more interested in STEM-based subjects with the research showing over one third (33 per cent) of under 16s would now consider a career in engineering. The idea of living on another planet in the future has played a key role for nearly half (46 per cent) of children in their interest in engineering and technology.

Engineering is now the third most popular profession children would like to work in with 15 per cent saying it would be their preferred career behind being a YouTuber (18 per cent), or footballer (17 per cent). In fact, of all the careers available in engineering, 16 per cent of children said space exploration would be the number one field they would want to work within.

To help inspire the next generation of astronauts and engineers, the IET has launched a competition with iconic comic Beano inviting six to 13-year olds to design a product which they could not live without on Mars. The competition is open for entries from now until 3 July 2019. Entrants must send their design for a product, along with a few sentences on how they would adapt it to work on Mars.

IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year and aspiring astronaut Sophie Harker (27), said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for under 13s to experience the creativity that a career in engineering brings. The future of space exploration will require the ingenuity of as many young people as possible with the right skills. Showing young people – and especially young women – that STEM careers have infinite possibilities is vital. Who knows what products we’ll need in space in the future? The competition with Beano aims to inspire children to think outside the box about what is important to them and how engineering can help make their dreams a reality.”

The winner of the competition will be selected by a panel of judges from the IET, Sophie Harker and editor of the Beano. The winning design will be made into a 3D prototype and sent to the edge of space**. The winner and two runners-up will be invited to attend the space launch and see their design head up above the clouds. Beano will also turn the winner into a cartoon character and will feature in the comic in a future issue.

For more information about how to enter, please go to https://www.engineer-a-better-world.org/get-involved/.

Historically, inspirational figures in engineering relating to space have been male. However, the research suggests this is set to change in the near future as more than a third (36 per cent) of children who say they would consider a career in engineering were girls.

The IET aims to inspire the next generation of engineers and help to plug the nationwide engineering skills shortage. 203,000 people with engineering skills are required each year to meet demand through to 2024, however, it’s estimated that there will be an annual shortfall of 59,000 engineers and technicians to fill these roles***.

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For more information, please contact iet@tinmancomms.com

Jordan King
E: Jordan.King@tinmancomms.com
T: +44 (0) 203 950 7553

Chris Fay 
E: Chris.Fay@tinmancomms.com
T: +44 (0) 203 950 7565

Notes to editors

*Research undertaken by One Poll between 22.05.19 and 02.06.19 with 1000 adults and 1000 children aged six to 16.

** The winner’s product design will be made into a 3D representation before being sent to the edge of space on a hydrogen balloon. The product will then be returned for the winner to keep.

***Engineering UK statistics.

About the IET

  • We inspire, inform and influence the global engineering community to engineer a better world.
  • We are a diverse home for engineering and technology intelligence throughout the world. This breadth and depth means we are uniquely placed to help the sector progress society.
  • We want to build the profile of engineering and technology to change outdated perceptions and tackle the skills gap. This includes encouraging more women to become engineers and growing the number of engineering apprentices.
  • Interview opportunities are available with our spokespeople from a range of engineering and technology disciplines including cyber-security, energy, engineering skills, innovation, manufacturing, technology, transport and diversity in engineering.
  • For more information, visit www.theiet.org
  • Follow the IET on Twitter.

About the Beano competition

The best invention will be chosen by the Beano editor, the IET and engineer, Sophie Harker. Closing date for entries is 3rd July 2019 23.59PM (BST). For full competition terms & conditions visit https://www.engineer-a-better-world.org/get-involved/ Competition opens 4 days prior to the issue date of the comic. Travel and accommodation for the winner and their parents or guardians to attend the launch will be provided by the IET. You must have the permission of a parent or guardian to enter this competition. By sending us something you promise you are the creator and owner (unfortunately we are not able to return it). We will only use the data provided to contact winners in relation to the competition prize.

Media enquiries to:

Hannah Kellett
External Communications Manager
E: hkellett@theiet.org
T: +44 (0)1438 767 336

Rebecca Gillick
Senior Communications Executive
E: rgillick@theiet.org
T: +44 (0)1438 765 618