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Students shoot for the stars with space science work experience project

Updated: 23.06.21

Students shoot for the stars with space science work experience project

Games, animation and visual effects students at The Sheffield College have enjoyed the chance to shoot for the stars and present their work to space professionals.

The project was part of a week’s remote work experience organised by NextGen Skills Academy and educational charity 4wardFutures. It involved students from the College’s NextGen Games, Animation and Visual Effects Academy.

Taking the idea of space colonisation as inspiration, students researched and designed a vision of what it would mean to create a sustainable society on Mars.

Students then delivered either a presentation, using visual effects, animation and 3D modelling to promote the colonisation of Mars to its early settlers, or a simulation game to help prepare early colonists to build a sustainable Mars settlement.

Students were coached throughout the week by a roster of games, animation, visual effects, and space industry professionals from leading employers such as Union VFX, Creative Assembly and Space Specialists. 

Bringing real industry engagement directly to students, the employers joined online calls to offer feedback, advice, and inspiration as the learners refined their work before presenting it to a panel of space experts.

The panel included Brad "Buddy" Gersey, Lead Research Scientist at the NASA funded Center for Radiation Engineering and Science for Space Exploration.

Rachel Topliss, Head of Employer Academy Partnerships and Work-Related Activity, The Sheffield College, said: “Providing our students with work-related opportunities so they become highly employable and go further in their careers is a top priority. This exciting opportunity is testament to that and we would like to thank NextGen Skills Academy, 4wardFutures and all of the employers involved for their support.”

Student Noah Manson, 17, said: “I really loved the work experience opportunity because it gave me an idea of what it would be like working for a client with a project brief and it allowed me to try a bunch of new techniques and software that I had not used before. The thing that I most enjoy about the course is the creative freedom we are given.”

Student Zac Bower, 16, added: “On my college course, I am enjoying learning new skills and my long-term career ambition is to work at a video game industry company, start my own business or join an indie team so I can use my multiple skills.”

Mark Waters, Head of Research and of Programme Development at 4wardFutures, said: “Through working on our 3D Space Design challenge, we hoped that in addition to the experience of working as part of a team on an industry set design brief, students would gain an insight into how their skills and qualities in 3D visualisation, VFX production and animation are in high demand across many sectors, such as the space industry.

“Spending time with the NextGen students as they presented their work was one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences I have had. The NextGen students totally exceed our expectations, with some amazing work and a clear demonstration of the personal qualities that are so important in the workplace.”

Marcia Deakin, Games Partnership Director at NextGen Skills Academy, said: “This has been such a fantastic and inspiring project to be involved with. The students were so engaged, and the work produced was to a really high standard. Remote working has become a reality over the last year, with all challenges it entails.

“The creative industries have been able to adapt their working practises quickly and, in many cases, thrive during Covid due to remote working. This practice is set to continue once there is a return to studios.  Therefore, it is increasingly valuable for students to learn these skills, and this project shows that these placements can be incredibly meaningful and impactful for students preparing for the next stages of their careers.”

Games, videos, and assets created during the week will be used by 4wardFutures for their educational outreach work promoting the range of exciting career opportunities within the new technology and space industries.

Around 150 students from seven colleges took part in the work experience last month. All are studying the NextGen AIM Qualifications Level 3 Extended Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills.

The NextGen Games, Animation and Visual Effects Academy is part of The Sheffield College’s employer skills academies programme that equips students with the qualifications and skills that employers need.

Students work on real life projects with industry experts and attend masterclasses, and are able to progress to employment, an apprenticeship or university on successful completion of their qualification.

Currently, there are 15 employer skills academies at the College backed by 13 different employers: Discovery STEM Education, Greene King, Kier Construction, Kryolan, Liberty Steel, Millgate, MSK Ingredients, NextGen Skills Academy, PJ Taste, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, Sheffield Sharks, Uniheads and WANdisco.

For more information on joining in September 2021, please visit the NextGen Games, Animation and Visual Effects Academy page.

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