Author: <span>Kareem Lewis</span>

EGSDC22_WinningScreenshot MESDC

EGSDC 2022 Qualifiers to ISSDC

Congratulations and well done to all participants of the first National Space Design Competition in Egypt, EGSDC 2022!

A huge thank you to the 45 participants who registered for the competition from multiple regions of Egypt. We thoroughly enjoyed judging your 18 essay submissions.

The challenge presented was to design Bazol, the Foundation Society’s first Lunar habitat on the far side of the moon. The purpose? A state-of-the-art manufacturing facility for high-value products.

We have been impressed and very proud of the quality and standard of the submissions, considering that English is not the native language as well as EGSDC22 being the first time the competitions have come to Egypt.

The EGSDC is proud to congratulate the following 7 students who have produced the top 3 submissions, in alphabetical order:

Ahmad Mehrez Menna Mohamed Hassan Ibrahim
Ahmed Khairy Abdel-Mobdy Hassan Menna Mohamed Migahid Maklid
Mariam Mehrez Omar Barakat
Marwan Magdy Abdel-Hady Mohamed

The organisers of the Egypt SDC thank you all for taking part and making this year’s edition of the EGSDC a memorable experience. We were thrilled to witness the enthusiasm for the competition and hope that this year’s essay-based format will lay the foundations for a live event next year.

Special thanks to Loay, Farah, and Alina for your collaboration and outstanding efforts as EGSDC Lead Organisers.

Watch this space!

Sample_RFP_Rectangle Explainers

#7: Request for Proposal (RFP) – Part 2/3

Word count & reading time: (1100 words – 10 minutes)

Welcome back to the Space Design Competitions – unique, impactful, and exhilarating space STEAM-a-thon events that get you conceptually designing space habitats for up to 80 years in the future… 

The last article introduced the Request for Proposal (RFP), an industrial-style document outlining the design requirements set by the fictional client (The Foundation Society) for each competing team (company) to fulfil. We will continue to use the acronym “RFP”.

This is the second blog of the 3-part series:

  1. What is an RFP? What does it include, and how does it look in the SDC?
  2. How do you read the RFP? What are the trigger words, and what is the client really asking for?
  3. What are the strategies for tackling an RFP? How do you split the behemoth task, and how can you manage the design process?

This article will provide a deeper read into the content of the RFP, and guide participants through understanding what is being asked of you.

A sample RFP is provided in the Competition Resources section of this website and will be used as the main reference for the explanations to follow.

A reminder: fulfilling the design requirements of the RFP is the central objective of any SDC. It is essentially a task list of the entire event and hence the most important document you will be given (so please read it!!). Two of the biggest challenges the RFP poses for all participants (new and returning) is the length and the complexity of the document. 

If you have not yet seen it, take a minute to watch this video which reviews 14 years of  UKSDC events. The video gives a great overview of what we’re all about.

What was the RFP structure again?

  1. Introduction of the space habitat that you are challenged to design
  2. Basic Requirements that the habitat must adhere to across all phases of the design process
  3. Statement of Work outlining specific design requirements split into the company departments/roles, namely:
    1. Structural Engineering
    2. Operations Engineering
    3. Human Engineering
    4. Automation Engineering
    5. Schedule & Cost
  4. Evaluation Standards listing the assessment criteria that will be used by the client during the final presentations
  5. Addendum stating any periphery information that is pertinent to the overall design project

Understanding the RFP

In the last article, I mentioned that the most important thing to do when you receive the RFP is to read it carefully. I repeat myself because if you appropriately fulfil each RFP requirement to the stated needs of the client, your company wins the competition. Simple. 

Yet, not a single company in the 14-year history of the competition has ever truly achieved this. Why? It is because participants either do not completely understand what the RFP is asking of them, or they choose to overlook specific requests as it does not fit their proposed solutions. 

The single most important thing for any participant is to read the RFP. Under time constraints, it can prove stressful and overwhelming to analyse every detail of this long and complex document, but you must

Doing this as best you can the first time results in a deeper understanding of the exact tasks at hand and allows you to get a firm grip on the following::

  • Possible solutions to RFP points — Does this solution answer the requirement? Does it fit the client’s needs? Is it scientifically sound?
  • Overlap between departments — Who is needed to fulfil this task? Who needs to know about this solution? Have we informed finance of the cost?
  • Optimal flow of work efforts — In what order shall we tackle it? How are we going to manage these tasks?

Although the bigger-picture responsibilities rest with the management team (President, VPs, and HoDs), every individual within the company needs to be acutely aware of how their work influences and affects the work of others. Do not be fooled to think otherwise; the RFP is purposefully designed this way.

Ultimately, the design proposal is a group effort that requires constant communication and collaboration.

Trigger Words

In every RFP section, there are always one or more action verbs. They are easy to identify:

  • Draw a community layout map consisting of…
  • Specify the number of crew members allocated to…
  • State the gravitational field range required for…
  • Describe how you will provide breathable air to…
  • Justify how you will accommodate for the…
  • Detail the habitat’s health & safety protocols in the event of…

Each action verb demands a specific response that the client wants to receive during the final presentation. A non-exhaustive list of the action verbs and their definition can be found below, pulled from previous RFPs.

  • Draw — produce a hand-sketched or computer generated diagram
  • Specify — clearly define or identify; include the results of specific design decisions made and justified as appropriate
  • Indicate — same as ‘specify’, but requiring less precision
  • State — express definitely or clearly in speech or writing
  • Describe — include a visual or textual summary to clearly explain compliance to a requirement
  • Outline — similar to ‘describe’ but requiring more holistic approach to the whole topic
  • Explain — make clear to someone by describing in more detail or revealing relevant facts
  • Detail — same as ‘describe’ but requiring information pertinent to even the lowest level of the subject
  • Design — do or plan something with a specific purpose in mind
  • Show — provide a visual representation adequate to clearly explain a requested item. 
  • Show how — support explanations, either visually or textually, of how a requirement is fulfilled. 
  • Justify — provide on-slide reasons for decisions made. 

As a practice task, download the Sample RFP and highlight the action verbs. On a separate sheet, create a crude list of tasks, trimming away the detail found in the RFP. This should produce a clearer list of tasks resembling something similar to what is listed at the beginning of this section.

Final Remarks

If you do the practice task suggested above, it should be clear what the list of tasks are; and there are many. Luckily, you’re not alone. Remember, it’s a group effort.

But how should you tackle them? Who should do what? Is there an optimal strategy? What is best practice?

These are all questions that will be answered in the last article in the 3-part series on RFPs.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more.

External Links

  • Want to get involved in this rapidly growing network of space education enthusiasts? Register your interest to volunteer here: https://bit.ly/MESDC_VolunteerRegistration
  • Want to follow the news and events in the Middle Eastern context? Check out the MESDC website here: https://mesdc.org 
  • Want to find out more about the organising charity? Check out the SSEF website here: https://ssef.org.uk
Sample_RFP_Rectangle Explainers

#6: Request for Proposal (RFP) – Part 1/3

Word count & reading time: (1300 words – 10 minutes)

Welcome back to the Space Design Competitions – unique, impactful, and exhilarating space STEAM-a-thon events that get you conceptually designing space habitats for up to 80 years in the future…

The last article elaborated on the details of Prime and Subcontractors, a challenging concept for most first-time participants. As one of the prime contractors competing to win the contract to build the Foundation Society’s desired habitat, where can you find the actual design requirements? What will you spend your time designing? What does the Foundation Society really want? This is where the Request for Proposal (RFP) comes in. We will use the acronym “RFP” henceforth.

Fulfilling the design requirements of the RFP is the central objective of any SDC. It is essentially a task list of the entire event and hence the most important document you will be given (so please read it!!). Two of the biggest challenges the RFP poses for all participants (new and returning) is the length and the complexity of the document.

The first thing you will notice is that the RFP spans 3-5 pages of nothing but text. Upon reading it, you will then notice that a lot of the design requirements overlap across departments and use fairly advanced language and terminology. Most frustratingly, perhaps, is that the RFP does not allude to any clear strategy for tackling it. Well, guess what? That’s on purpose. That may be harsh, but welcome to life in industry!

A large part of your initial task with the SDC is to break down the RFP into its tasks, to delegate the tasks amongst the company and to create an execution  strategy.. Discussing the entire scope of the RFP would result in a lengthy blog post, so I have decided to split the discussion into a 3-part series as listed below.

  1. What is an RFP? What does it include, and how does it look in the SDC?
  2. How do you read the RFP? What are the trigger words, and what is the client really asking for?
  3. What are the strategies for tackling an RFP? How do you split the behemoth task, and how can you manage the design process?

This article will provide an overview, go into the definition and structure of an RFP and explain how it will look in any SDC.

If you have not yet seen it, take a minute to watch this video which reviews 14 years of  UKSDC events. The video gives a great overview of what we’re all about.

What is a Request for Proposal?

A commonplace document in industrial settings, the RFP is the keystone document communicating the client’s desires to the prime contractors.

A request for proposal (RFP) is a business document that announces a project, describes it, and solicits bids from qualified contractors to complete it.

Essentially, it’s a document the client uses to state what they would like in a desired project. As the client is not always capable of performing the work required, they publicise the project in hopes that qualified contractors put forward a bid. This bid is often in the form of a conceptual design proposal that they think best fits the client’s needs. After multiple bids have been put forward, the client chooses which is the most suitable bid for the project and awards the winning company the contract. This is the basis of the Space Design Competitions.

Most organisations in industry prefer to launch their projects using RFPs, and many governments use them. When using an RFP, the entity requesting the bids (the client) is responsible for evaluating the feasibility of the bids submitted, the financial health of the bidding companies, and each bidder‘s ability to undertake the project. The SDCs simulate this setting by requiring each prime contractor to present their work to the client who will then evaluate the bids. Cool, huh?

If you haven’t quite understood the idea of an RFP yet, I encourage you to re-read the above and perhaps check out real-life examples. Here is an article showing NASA as the client with bids coming from industry members, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, Relativity Space, and Nanoracks.

What does a typical RFP include?

Although there is no one accepted standardised form for an RFP, the key elements of an RFP are listed below. The ones marked with an asterisk (*) are included in a typical RFP found in the SDC.

  • *Project description
  • Company description
  • *Basic requirements of the project
  • *Definition of specific content, design, and functionality of the project
  • *Financial requirements
  • *Timeline & scope of the project
  • *Evaluation standards

The only thing omitted in the context of the SDC is the profile of the client company, the Foundation Society, which can instead be found on the SDC website. As you can see, the RFPs in the competitions are highly representative of the industrial norms. This prepares participants for the reality of the challenges and joys faced in the space sector, as well as in many other industries.

What does the RFP look like in the SDC?

Each SDC event will use a unique RFP to assure novel content, excitement and a level playing field for new and returning participants. A sample RFP is provided in Competition Resources and will be used as the main reference for the explanation to follow.

The way the RFP is structured within the SDC is representative of the roles and responsibilities that are necessary to design a space habitat. Namely, those of the company (prime contractor) as a whole and those of the individual departments within it, as follows:

  1. Introduction of the space habitat that you are challenged to design
  2. Basic Requirements that the habitat must adhere to across all phases of the design process
  3. Statement of Work outlining specific design requirements split into the company departments/roles, namely:
    1. Structural Engineering
    2. Operations Engineering
    3. Human Engineering
    4. Automation Engineering
    5. Schedule & Cost
  4. Evaluation Standards listing the assessment criteria that will be used by the client during the final presentations
  5. Addendum stating any periphery information that is pertinent to the overall design project

Although the content of each RFP changes at each competition, the structure is always the same. The most important thing to do when you receive the RFP is to read it carefully. If you fulfil each requirement, you win the competition. It really is that simple, but I promise you it is not easy!

For now, you can take a breather and celebrate the fact that you are another step closer to being an SDC connaisseur!

Final Remarks

The notion of contractors is of fundamental importance to the space sector. The ability to understand and address the client’s desires is critical to your survival in the sector. Often the first opportunity to prove your ability to align to the client’s interests is through your response to an RFP. This ability to understand the client and to provide according to their needs is core to the educational mission of the SDC. Only when you understand your client’s needs can you deliver solutions that are relevant.

I hope you now have a deeper understanding of the function of the RFP and feel more comfortable in approaching the next SDC.

Next up in the RFP series, I will shine some light on how to decipher the content of the RFP. What is actually being asked of you? What are the key words? What are your resulting actions?

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more.

External Links

  • Want to get involved in this rapidly growing network of space education enthusiasts? Register your interest to volunteer here: https://bit.ly/MESDC_VolunteerRegistration
  • Want to follow the news and events in the Middle Eastern context? Check out the MESDC website here: https://mesdc.org 
  • Want to find out more about the organising charity? Check out the SSEF website here: https://ssef.org.uk
SDC_ContractorsScreenshot Explainers

#5: Prime & Subcontractors

Word count & reading time: (1280 words – 10 minutes)

Welcome back to the Space Design Competitions – unique, impactful, and exhilarating space STEAM-a-thon events that get you conceptually designing space habitats for up to 80 years in the future…

The last article elaborated on the details of the Company Structure and roles within them. Prime and Subcontractors were introduced and are often a stumbling block for most first-time participants. As such, we’ll dive into it here as these concepts are integral to the Space Design Competitions.

If you have not already, take a minute to watch this video reviewing 14 years of  the UKSDC event. It gives a great overview of what we’re all about.

What is a contractor?

A great place to start. What is a contractor and what do they have to do with industry? Before we jump into contractors, let us first acknowledge the root word: contracts.

You may be familiar with what a contract is as you have probably got your phone data & call package on some form of contract, or are aware of contracts with utility providers (e.g. internet, electricity, water, or gas) for your home. But what is a contract?

A contract is a formal written —or spoken— agreement, especially one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law. 

It’s essentially an agreement between two or more parties regarding work to be done. It should now make a lot more sense when you read the definition for a contractor below.

A contractor is an individual or firm that agrees to the terms of a contract and provides materials or labour to perform the service or fulfil the job as stated in the contract.

In essence, a contract is the agreement and the contractors are those fulfilling the terms of the agreement for the client. This is the bread-and-butter of modern day industry (especially the space sector!), describing how it operates efficiently and effectively.

A client is an individual or firm using the services of another professional individual or firm, the owner of the job stated in a contract. 

Picture yourself as the owner of an electronics shop. You may not have the skills within your shop to perform interior refurbishment. Desperately needing to upgrade the interior of your shop for new electronic hardware, you decide to hire specialists to perform these specific tasks. In this example, you —the business owner— are the client and the specialists are the contractors. It’s as simple as that!

If you haven’t quite understood this concept yet, give it some time to set in as the rest of the article will go into further detail about the various types of contractors.

What is a Prime Contractor?

The word “prime” is often given to an individual or entity that is of importance: the main entity. So in the case of contractors, the Prime Contractor is the main contractor.

In very large projects (such as building a space settlement) there exists a wide array of skills and specialisations needed to complete the entire project. In such cases, you will need to hire many different subcontractors. But who manages them all?

The Prime Contractor is the lead contractor responsible for the completion of a project which is under contract with the owner of the job (the client). The obligation of the prime contractor is to complete a project and can hire multiple other contractors (subcontractors) to do the same.

So the prime contractor is the company that the client puts in charge of overseeing the execution of a project.

In the case of the SDCs, the company that you are a member of is a prime contractor. There are five different companies in the SDCs, each battling to win the client’s trust —by creating the most attractive design proposal— to be awarded the contract. This is the basis of the Space Design Competitions.

The five different prime contractors are listed below (their specialisations are accessible here):

  • Kepler Automation
  • Olympus Mons Trading Company
  • Earhart Advanced Industries
  • DaVinci Meccanica
  • Condor Aviation

What is a Subcontractor?

You have probably guessed it already. A  subcontractor is just another contractor in the larger project who fulfils a small part of the whole.

A subcontractor is an individual or a firm that signs a contract to perform part of the obligations of another’s contract.

You would often hire subcontractors either to reduce costs, save time, or to mitigate project risks. In employing subcontractors, the prime contractor hopes to receive the same or better service than the prime contractor could have provided by itself at lower overall risk. Remember the example of the electronics shop?

In the SDCs, there are a tonne of subcontractors that you —a member of a prime contractor— can and should use in your design proposal. Each has a specialisation that may prove beneficial to you. The judges will be looking out for effective use of subcontractors to reduce project costs, timelines, and risks.

The idea of offloading your work to someone else may seem alien to you as this is not typically practised in school. Well, that’s just another reason you should take part in an SDC! We’re here to show you how industries work.

SDC_ContractorsScreenshot

An SDC Example

You now know that in the SDCs you are a member of one of the companies (a prime contractor) competing to win a contract with the Foundation Society (the client) to build a space settlement. In this setting, you are encouraged and expected to use someone else’s specialisations (subcontractors) to fulfil a part of your design proposal. All right, let’s put this together in a typical SDC example.

You are a member of the Human Engineering department of Earhart Advanced Industries (a prime contractor). The Foundation Society (the client) has specifically listed a nutritional requirement for a varied, fresh, and balanced diet for the inhabitants.

Your department decides that fish is a tasty source of protein, fatty acids, and an assortment of vitamins and minerals. You also note that growing fish means you can offer ecological habitats on your settlement that resemble Earth, improving the mental health of the inhabitants. Great! But you have absolutely no clue how to farm fish.

Your first point-of-call is to check the list of subcontractors. Low and behold, CRISPR Cod is an organisation that sells, despite their name, a large variety of genetically modified fish that they claim are guaranteed to provide greater yields of produce with greater resistance to parasites and diseases.

You enlist CRISPR Cod’s services, noting how much it will cost. Simple as that.

Here, you isolated a subcontractor that can perform the work you need and enlisted their services. In your final design proposal, all you need to do is state the use of the subcontractor, how much it will cost you, and how the provision of their services will make your settlement desirable to the client.

Congratulations, you’re one step closer to being SDC ready!

Final Remarks

The notion of contractors is of fundamental importance to the space sector. I hope you now have a deeper understanding of how they work and how you can utilise this knowledge in the SDCs.

Next up, I will do my best to give you the skills necessary to decipher the Request for Proposal (RFP); the central document to all SDCs. It will be a 3-part series as there is much to cover…

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more!

External Links

  • Want to get involved in this rapidly growing network of space education enthusiasts? Register your interest to volunteer here: https://bit.ly/MESDC_VolunteerRegistration
  • Want to follow the news and events in the Middle Eastern context? Check out the MESDC website here: https://mesdc.org 
  • Want to find out more about the organising charity? Check out the SSEF website here: https://ssef.org.uk
SDC_CompanyStructure Explainers

#4: Company Structure

Word count & reading time: (1095 words – 8 minutes) 

Welcome back to the Space Design Competitions – unique, impactful, and exhilarating space STEAM-a-thon events that get you conceptually designing space habitats for up to 80 years in the future… 

The last article elaborated on the details of the Request for Proposal (RFP) and the concept of companies for teams. But how do these companies work, and where do you fit in? That’s exactly what we’ll dive into in this article.

If you have not already, take a minute to watch this video reviewing 14 years of  the UKSDC event. It gives a great overview of what we’re all about.

Once again, what is the point of an SDC?

The SDC is an immersive aerospace industry simulation. It’s an opportunity for you to experience the joys and challenges of complex and multifaceted industry design proposals. 

Through this simulation, you will transform yourself into a representative of a fictional company some 50-80 years in the future. Much will have changed, and you will need to work collaboratively to accomplish the design challenge set by the fictional client — the Foundation Society.

What does collaboration mean? 

Working collaboratively is a core value of the Space Design Competitions. Without collaboration with your peers, you will not be able to successfully fulfil the RFP. 

In the SDCs, you will be working in a company of up to 50 individuals. This may be the first time you will have worked in such a large group, and your ability to collaborate will be put to the challenge.

Collaboration in a workplace means sharing ideas to accomplish a common goal. It is simply teamwork taken to a higher level. 

Teamwork is often a physical joining of people to accomplish a task and includes other aspects, such as the following: 

  • Thinking & brainstorming ideas to provide solutions – this key element brings groups together to offer different perspectives and expertise to solve common problems. The phrase ‘putting our heads together‘ idiomatically expresses this element of collaboration. 
  • Equal participation – in industry, a collaborative manager or leader may say ‘leave your titles at the door.’ Treating everyone as an equal can open up communication and encourage ideas not only from its upper management, but  from all levels of the company or department.
  • Effective communication & management of ideas – central to all collaborative efforts is the ability to communicate ideas across the entire team, to manage their progress, and to evaluate their impact. You will need to choose specific  individuals to fulfil this role.
  • A strong sense of purpose – groups and individuals who truly collaborate see the value in working together and do not feel forced to do so. There should be a meaningful reason for working together, and it should benefit the company as a whole. 

Note. collaboration and collation are two very different concepts. One is the joint solving of a problem (collaboration) whilst the other is joining independently constructed solutions (collation) and hoping they fit together. 

Confusing these terms results in inefficient company organisation and, ultimately, incomplete design proposals. Understanding how members of large groups work together is pivotal for success at the SDCs.

How are the companies divided?

Each of the companies comprises a group of up to 50 participants, all working towards a common goal: to satisfy the requirements of the RFP.

Depending on the number of participants within a competition, there may be only 2 or 3 companies. If the event is at full capacity, you can expect 5 companies to be running at max capacity! So how is the workload shared among 50 participants?

Splitting the company into specific focus groups guarantees that the workload is shared. As in industry, these focus groups are, in effect, company departments. In the SDCs, there are 4 such departments:

  1. Structures — responsible for the overall structural design of the settlement
  2. Operations — responsible for defining the infrastructure and utilities of the settlement
  3. Automation — responsible for designing and providing digital and robotic services to support the operations of the settlement
  4. Human Factors — responsible for ensuring human safety, livability, and comfort of the settlement 

At the start of the event, you will have the opportunity to join any one of these departments. Choosing a department that best suits your interests allows you to explore the topic further, thereby challenging you to grow. It is always recommended that you choose a path that best fits your skills and passions.  But do maintain a degree of flexibility!

How are the companies structured?

As in industry, a hierarchical structure exists within each company in the form of leadership roles bearing specific responsibilities. You may have heard of some of these before: Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Head of Department (HoD), Team Leaders, etc. In the SDCs, there are 4 leadership roles:

  1. Company President — provides leadership across the company and is the most senior role, ensuring that all aspects of the RFP are met. 
  2. (VPE) Vice President of Engineering — coordinates each department in order that all engineering divisions communicate their ideas and satisfy the requirements  set out in the RFP.
  3. (VPM) Vice President of Marketing & Sales — imagines the brand for its space company, its financial structure, and its customer marketing. 
  4. (HoD) Head of Department — coordinates a specific department, ensuring progress as well as alignment to RFP requirements.

Each of these roles is depicted in Figure 1 below. The red positions represent adult volunteer roles, green positions represent student leadership roles, and blue positions reflect the remainder of student roles.

Note. red positions are filled by SDC alumni, members of academia or of industry and are available to you across the SDC event.

SDC_CompanyStructure

Figure 1. Company hierarchy diagram. 

Every department focuses its work within specialisations to complete the diverse requirements of the RFP. 

Ultimately, the departments collaborate and pool their work to assemble the final design.

For a deeper understanding of specific roles and responsibilities, visit this document.

Final Remarks

Now you know about the RFP, about each of the 5 fictional companies within the SDCs, and about the organisation of each company. Perhaps now you even know about where  you fit within them the next time you participate!

Next up, we will explore the relationship between Prime and Subcontractors.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more.

External Links

  • Want to get involved in this rapidly growing network of space education enthusiasts? Register your interest to volunteer here: https://bit.ly/MESDC_VolunteerRegistration
  • Want to follow the news and events in the Middle Eastern context? Check out the MESDC website here: https://mesdc.org 
  • Want to find out more about the organising charity? Check out the SSEF website here: https://ssef.org.uk