A local science teacher, Dr Allen was one of thousands selected to prove themselves the best candidate to send to outer space. Astronaut and former Commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, former NASA medical researcher Dr Kevin Fong, and psychologist Dr Iya Whiteley, chose 12 exceptional applicants to take part in the series.
Dr Allen made it all the way to the finals alongside the show’s overall winner, Dr Suzie Imber, who visited Truro High to inspire 100s of schoolchildren from across the county earlier this year.
As well as discussing the incredible journey that he took on the BBC’s search for potential astronauts, Dr Allen challenged his audience to undertake some of the tasks used in the process to whittle down candidates. Students, staff and parents all joined in with these hands-on activities.
These included creating as many as origami cranes as possible in 20 minutes, building the tallest tower using only scrap paper and sellotape and even taking a concentration test set by the European Space Agency.
Dr Allen explained that exercises such as these test skills essential for travelling in space including having a keen eye for detail, teamwork and the ability to process large quantities of new information with accuracy. Most importantly, all of these tasks challenge participants to cope with the potential experience of failure.
Challenges faced by the contestants on the show included a series of gruelling physical and psychological tests, escaping an underwater pod and docking a space capsule. Dr Allen told his audience that the tasks were set to test candidates beyond their academic credentials noting that his training as a lifeguard proved just as useful to him as his degree.
Dr Allen finished with words of wisdom to all students who dream of travelling amongst the stars advising them to choose an educational path wisely and ensure it’s one they enjoy.
Dr Allen said: “Tonight was great – we’re living in a more and more technologically advanced world and to achieve things like moving off planet, we need young bright minds to lead the way. Those people come from exactly the kind of students we have here this evening. If you can enthuse them, especially whilst they’re young, STEM can become a lifelong passion. That’s what happened to me when I was their age and I think it’s really important to pass that on and give them what was given to me.”
The lecture was the latest instalment of the school’s Aspiring Programme which supports students interested in astronomy and engineering in making their career aspirations a reality. The bespoke programme offers a tailored calendar of lectures, workshops, mentoring and one-to-one support throughout the year.