SEDS-Canada is a student-run non-profit organization which aims to provide post-secondary students with hands-on projects, research programs, and professional development opportunities in the Canadian space sector. We had the chance to catch up with the Projects Chair at SEDS-Canada Alina Kunitskaya to find out more about what they do.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
SEDS-Canada is a student-run non-profit with a mission to provide post-secondary students with hands-on projects, research programs, and professional development opportunities in the Canadian space sector. As Projects Chair, I oversee the administration of SEDS-Canada’s projects, including the Canadian Stratospheric Balloon Experiment design challenge (CAN-SBX), the Canadian Reduced Gravity Experiment design challenge (CAN-RGX), and the Young Space Entrepreneurs (YSpacE) competition.
SEDS-Canada also runs a variety of events, including the Canadian Space Conference, ActInSpace, and NASA’s Space App Challenge. We are students helping students!
What problem does it aim to solve?
At SEDS-Canada, we recognize the importance of space exploration in advancing scientific knowledge, developing new technologies that can improve the quality of life for people on Earth, and enabling economic growth and international collaborations. We aim to provide students with skills and experiences that will train them as highly qualified personnel for Canada’s space workforce. This will help ensure that Canada can sustain the growth of its space sector and remain at the forefront of space exploration.
When did you start/join it?
I first joined SEDS-Canada as a Director at Large in May 2020.
What made you want to get involved?
As an undergraduate student, I participated in SEDS-Canada’s CAN-RGX competition, which is an opportunity for students to design and fly a scientific experiment in microgravity (a.k.a. weightlessness or “zero gravity”) on a parabolic flight. Not only was experiencing zero gravity a dream come true, but I also gained invaluable experiences in project management, experiment design, and microgravity sciences. I also gained hands-on skills in designing, testing, and building a scientific payload, which has helped me enormously in my professional development.
After witnessing first-hand the impactful opportunities SEDS-Canada has to offer, I joined as a volunteer to help deliver SEDS-Canada’s projects and events, so that many more students across Canada can gain these impactful experiences and skills in the space sector.
What was the situation like when you started?
When I started a few years ago, the organization had a heavy representation of students from Ontario, a region of Canada with access to aerospace programs and space organizations, while students from other regions of Canada, including Western, Northern and Atlantic Canada made up only a small fraction of members and participants in our events or projects. In 2020, we were also faced with the challenge of moving our programs online.
How has it changed since?
Since then, our outreach team has implemented several programs that greatly increased student participation and our reach across Canada. We’ve grown in members (and volunteers) and one of our major events, the Canadian Space Conference, successfully engaged more students and was hosted in Quebec for the first time this year. On the projects side, we were able to engage more student teams from Western Canada and hosted the CAN-RGX parabolic flight campaign in Calgary for the first time this February to reduce the barrier to entry for these teams.
We’ve also been able to return to in-person events and implemented a hybrid format for some events to increase participation and improve accessibility for students across Canada. Lastly, it’s been great to see increasing support from the government and industry toward student opportunities.
What more needs to be done?
When it comes to outreach and representation, more work can be done to engage students from Northern communities and Atlantic Canada, as well as to increase diversity by providing opportunities to underrepresented groups.
We would also love to provide more project opportunities and more local events across the country. We also aspire to be able to provide more financial support to students to reduce barriers to entry, such as grants for student teams participating in space-related competitions or grants for individuals to attend relevant conferences or other academic endeavours.
How can our readers help?
If you know a young person interested in space, encourage them to check out SEDS-Canada! Whether they are a high school student, a young professional, or anywhere in between, there are many opportunities to get involved, from participating in our events and projects to volunteering with us.
We also greatly appreciate any financial support to help us deliver these projects and events to students. Readers can donate through our website or contribute by purchasing space-themed merchandise from our online store.
Do you have any events coming up?
Applications and registration for our projects and events usually open at the end of summer/beginning of September. We also run webinars throughout the year. Stay tuned for any announcements on our website or social media!
Where can we follow you?
Website | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
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