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The Canadian Space Agency wants lunar rover simulators for our youth

Credit: SpaceQ/Canadian Space Agency.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) want to put young students into virtual lunar rovers, and it’s looking for help to make it happen.

On May 16th, the CSA put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for “Commanding A Rover Learning Experience.”.They’re looking for bidders that are able to “develop and implement activities about operating real or virtual rovers, or a combination of both, for the simulation of realistic lunar exploration missions for youth in grade 6 to 9 (Secondary 3 in Quebec).” This is reminiscent of NASA’s new comic series, First Woman, aimed at telling kids about future astronauts on the lunar surface through the lens of a prospective first woman on the Moon. The comic was recently reviewed by SpaceQ.

The project is focused on developing interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in youth, and especially in youth from underrepresented and marginalized communities.  It is intended to last from the date of contract award to August 2024. The maximum funding for the RFP is $920,000: $800k for the two-year initial period, and two potential yearly extensions for up to $60,000 each. 

The Statement of Work (SOW) adds some details: that this is fulfilling an announcement they made when Canada announced their involvement in the Lunar Gateway project, and that they’re looking for bidders that will create team-based activities that will “allow youth to command rovers from a distance, simulating communication constraints (e.g., delays, bandwidth) and other challenges in operating rovers from Earth.”

Considering remote Rover control will be a key part of lunar exploration and development, and considering how precisely a simulation could replicate a remote operation experience, this could be a very special experience for these youth.

The RFP states that they’re primarily looking for bidders that are already experienced with educating youth in STEM topics. Their mandatory requirement for the proposals is that the contractor demonstrate past STEM activities delivered by the contractor to youth, break down the activities and materials that they plan to develop and how many youth could be reached, as well as (naturally) a financial estimate.  

Bidders will also need to pay attention to the CSA’s point-based breakdown of their criteria. It includes the contractors’ experience in “delivering STEM activities to youth,” especially “Indigenous youth, socio-economically vulnerable youth, visible minority youth, youth living with disabilities or exceptionalities, and youth from northern and remote communities.” It will also include an evaluation of their understanding of the target groups’ needs and barriers, and their demonstrated ability to adapt activities in response to those potential issues. 

Their expertise in rover-related technology, or “technologies that may apply to rover operations and exploration learning activities for youth” is key as well, with a strong focus on demonstrating their expertise in “developing and/or delivering activities about operating physical or virtual rover technology,” as well as providing “real-time support to the participants during the rover activities.”  They want bidders to demonstrate the “suitability, realism and relevance of the activities” for the youth, including demonstrating “clear links with STEM concepts or Canadian school curricula,” as well as having a clear project management plan that “contains details on the activities planned to be developed and delivered with a plausible estimate of the foreseen costs,” along with proof that the bidders have clear plans on executing their goals.  

Finally—and unsurprisingly for a project focused on disadvantaged youth—there’s a strong focus on the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusivity) policies of both the bidders and their institutions. They also need demonstrated proficiency in both official languages.

Put together, this points to a very specific set of varied expertises: in STEM education, in disadvantaged youth and DEI issues, in rovers simulations and/or in virtual reality, and in detailed project planning and management. 

For companies that fit the bill and are looking to bid, the deadline is June 26th.

About Craig Bamford

Craig started writing for SpaceQ in 2017 as their space culture reporter, shifting to Canadian business and startup reporting in 2019. He is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, and has a Master's Degree in International Security from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He lives in Toronto.

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