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  • Writer's pictureQPE Ltd

From Fife to Houston and back again: a schoolgirl’s journey to space.

Back in April 2019, Cailyn Calder, a 16-year-old student from Levenmouth Academy, got in touch with QPE about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She had been invited to participate in the 2019 United Space School program, which takes place every year in Houston, Texas. Just two students from Scotland were selected to participate in 2019’s program, which requires each student to raise funds for the placement. Following an interview with Cailyn at the school, QPE were honoured to sponsor the trip, including travel and USS fees, in order to secure Cailyn’s place.

QPE sponsors Cailyn Calder's United Space School trip

An S5 student at the time, studying physics, chemistry and maths, Cailyn was - and still is - hugely dedicated to her education and will be starting her physics studies at University later on this year. Attending the United Space School program provided a magnitude of benefits to Cailyn’s knowledge and education, as well as enhancing her personal and communication skills and providing an extremely unique set of experiences.

“As an electronics company, we are wholeheartedly invested in encouraging young people to pursue STEM-related careers. The future of our industry relies heavily on the innovation and excellence of younger generations, and being able to be a part of Cailyn’s journey has been hugely rewarding for everyone involved,” says Russell Dillon, QPE Managing Director. “We are looking forward to seeing Cailyn progress through university and following her undoubtedly successful career.”

Cailyn and her fellow students graduated from the United Space School program in August 2019, having spent two weeks studying, planning and executing a hypothetical Manned Mission to Mars project.

QPE sponsors Cailyn Calder's United Space School trip

Training was provided to the students by qualified instructors, and all necessary knowledge, resources and mentoring were available to enable students to successfully complete the project. To enhance and build upon this, the students participated in a variety of space-related activities at the Johnson Space Center, the University of Houston Clear Lake, Rice University, Space Center Houston, the George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. These activities included a tour of JSC facilities, A Full Crew Mission, a special project at the George Observatory, an ARISS link with ISS and an international video-conference on life sciences, bio-astronautics and aerospace medicine at a university.

QPE sponsors Cailyn Calder's United Space School trip

Cailyn was part of the blue team, whose specific goal/function was the exploration of Mars. The teams were expected to work independently to develop their portion of the Mission; however, many elements had to be considered collaboratively. Each team functioned as part of a larger system which had to come together for the final presentation outlining the Mission to Mars.

There were several cultural and social events for the students and their host families to enjoy, which further expanded the learning and experiences of everyone involved.

Upon her return to the UK, Cailyn visited QPE to give an impressive presentation to our engineer and management team. It’s safe to say that we were incredibly inspired by the students’ experiences, achievements and journeys. Cailyn’s participation in the program was also beneficial to the wider Levenmouth community, giving the area exposure through a global platform and its associated media, as well as demonstrating to other students just what can be achieved with hard work and dedication.


Every summer, the Foundation for International Space Education (FISE) invites students from 28 countries to Houston, Texas, to participate in the United Space School. Participating countries and schools are recommended by individuals associated with NASA JSC (National Aeronautics and Space Administration Johnson Space Centre), as well as various international Aerospace and education entities.

Levenmouth Academy, which is located just 10 miles down the road from the QPE office, is innovatively partnered with Ore Catapult, one of the UK’s leading technology and research centres for offshore renewable energy, which aims to encourage the studying of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) throughout the school.

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