Design Engineering

Canada’s got (eng.) talent

By Design Engineering staff   

General University

Canadian teens recognized for their engineering vision

Two Canadian high school students have been recognized for their engineering talents. The first is 17-year-old Eric Yam, a 12-grade student at Northern Secondary School north of Toronto, who won the grand prize in NASA’s 2009 Space Settlement competition, an annual international contest that asks high school students to design a space colony. The first Canadian to win the contest since it began 16 years ago, Yam beat out more than 300 other submissions from 900 other students.

In his 90-page contest entry presentation (pdf), Yam comprehensively lays out all aspects of the project, including the colony’s structural design, construction, life support system and social structure, along with detailed 3D schematics modeled in Google SketchUp. Named Asten, after the Egyptian god of equilibrium, the space colony provides living space for 10,000 permanent inhabitants plus accommodation for approximately 300 visitors, including space tourists.


Eric Yam’s Asten space colony design provides living and work space for 10,000 residents and 300 visitors.

Counter to the stereotypical torus-shape space station featured in movies like “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Yam’s cylindrical concept provides numerous benefits such as an expandable modular structure, reduced costs through mass production and evenly distributed artificial gravity across the entire station.

“The construction of a permanent space settlement will kick-start a whole new era of long term human interstellar exploration,” Yam writes in this entry presentation. “The project will help us learn how to design manned spacecraft that can travel for extended periods of time, and will be considered a landmark achievement. It will show that humans are not restricted to living on the Earth, and are in fact capable of living in the most extreme environment, such as other planets.”

For winning, Yam’s space colony submission will be hosted on the NASA Ames web site and he will attend the NSS 28th annual International Space Development Conference in Orlando, Florida. After graduation, he plans to enter University of Waterloo’s Mechatronics engineering program.

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