By Chelsea Guo
We sprinted through the rain, trying not to crash into tourists on our way inside company headquarters.
Thankfully, the Kennedy Space Center had air conditioning and best of all, no mosquitoes — a lucky break in Florida.
The tiny room was already crowded by the time I got there, filled with noisy teenagers from five different countries. I gave out tasks immediately, trying to figure out how to handle being the leader of my section, coordinating with other sections, and not losing my mind all at once.
I had led groups before, but never like this. After all, this wasn’t a mere school project. We had two days to prepare an innovative design for a city on Venus in the year 2092, and present to a panel of NASA engineers.
The 24th annual International Space Settlement Design Competition, known as SpaceSet, took place July 28-31 in Titusville, Fla. My school, University High in Irvine, was one of four finalist winners of the international qualifying competition, where we submitted a 50-page design report.
More than 24 schools selected from around the world competed in the final round. About 240 students were divided into four companies and given a proposal detailing requirements for a settlement with scientifically logical structures, means of operation, automations and community amenities. The company presentation that reached all proposal requirements creatively and economically according to the judges would be declared the winner.
Many other students and I didn’t sleep in order to finish before the deadline.
Things seemed to be going smoothly, until around 1 a.m., less than seven hours before the deadline, when the Structure section discovered a miscalculation in Human Engineering, my section, resulting in multiple designs needing to be completely redone. It was a simple mistake in visualizing the layout of the settlement, but it had affected hours of work that we couldn’t get back.
I argued with several team members, trying to figure out how to resolve the issue. We eventually fixed it by quickly redrawing and recalculating numbers for every building in the community, but I almost felt like crying.
I was the youngest leader and relatively weak in STEM. Yet I had been elected by my teammates to prevent these mistakes from happening — and failed.
Even though I was humiliated, this was the most significant thing SpaceSet could have given me. Most students, no matter how experienced, have never gone through an industry simulation like…