Australian Virtual Astronaut (AVA) Challenge

Australian Virtual Astronaut (AVA) Challenge

Australian Virtual Astronaut (AVA) Challenge

Topic: STEM challenge

Dates: October 8 – November 12, 2021

Do you think you’re isolated? Try being in space!
You are part of a team of astronauts creating a Family Home Outpost (FHO) on the Moon. How do survive? How do you thrive? Solve the problems that astronauts face in this Australian Virtual Astronaut (AVA) Challenge.

Mission Brief

Your team are on the Moon. You need to produce food in order to support life on the Moon.

  • How are we going to sustainably grow food on the Moon?
  • How do we ensure this food is nutritious?
  • How can the environment affect your food?
  • How can the food be stored?
  • Does the food produce enough energy?

Design an experiment, device or environment that can grow food on the Moon.

Engineering challenges

  • Radiation
  • Dust
  • Vacuum
  • Lack of resources

You have 6 weeks!

  • Assess your resources 
  • Identify the problem
  • Brainstorm ideas
  • Produce potential solutions


  • Students participate in a design thinking process for solving a lunar challenge.
  • Students upload a 1-minute video that showcases a student designed solution for growing something on the Moon and tag it using #virtualastronautau


Teachers register to get your unique webinar link

Information session

Tuesday, October 5 at 4:30pm AEST.
Register here

Weekly Missions

Weekly missions with live streams every Friday at 9:30am AEST, starting Friday 8 October

Week 1 – Define & Identify the Challenge – 8 October 2021
Week 2 – Brainstorm – 15 October 2021
Week 3 – Design & Prototype – 22 October 2021
Week 4 – Evaluate – 29 October 2021
Week 5 – Iterate – 5 November 2021
Week 6 – Communicate – 12 November 2021


Do students need to do more work outside of the 1-hour webinars?

It’s up to you! This STEM unit has been designed to be flexible and it is optional to be involved in the design aspects outside of the 6 x 1 hour webinars. However, we encourage everyone joining the challenge to consider this as a deep engagement opportunity for students that can be incorporated into weekly teaching & learning as your timetable permits.

Will there be breakout rooms with students?

No, due to the large number of schools & students involved, your students will be on this webpage watching the live stream.

This webinar will involve panellists discussing the challenge & posting questions that can be answered by your students using AhaSlides. Should your students have questions for the panellists, they can send them to you in your LMS or even via email. You can then raise these questions via the Q & A during the webinar. Please note, not all questions will be able to be answered live due to the number of schools & students involved.

Will the webinars be recorded?


Find out more about the resources

Reach out!

Learn more about the Exolab 10 mission in October 2022


Week 1

Download the Australian Virtual Astronaut (AVA) week 1 design folio to complement the webinar. In this weeks folio we set the scene for the associated design activities. Teachers can chose to use all the materials, some or none.


Week 2

Download the Australian Virtual Astronaut (AVA) week 2 design folio to complement the webinar. In this weeks folio students use the Define, Brainstorm and Evaluate Cogs of the iSTEM process. Students need to brainstorm ideas to define what their idea is going to be.

iSTEM Process

Download some more information about the iSTEM process to get more ideas for activities that you can do with students related to each of the cogs.

Week 3
Dowload the Australian Virtual Astronaut (AVA) week 3 design folio to complement the webinar. In this weeks folio students use the Brainstorm, Design and Evaluate Cogs of the iSTEM process and will learn about drawing their ideas and plants. Students will also have instructions about training like an astronaut.

Week 3 Supporting Resources

Train Like an Astronaut – Peake Lift Off
Mission Question:
How could you perform a series of physical activities that would improve your lungs and heart, and increase muscular coordination and endurance?

Watch Video:

Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut Peake Liftoff, Burpee

Peake Liftoff Technique

Download Teacher Guide:

PeakeLiftoff – Teacher.pdf

Stimulus material

Student Pre Survey

Student Post Survey

Exolab-9 ISS Mission by Magnitude

Aldrin Foundation – Home on the Moon project

Google slides to present to students

Teacher Ideation board on Trello by Hargraves Institute

The iStem Process

Engineers are cooking ways to grow fresh food in space

Artemis Accords

Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD 

Deep Space Food Challenge

ISS National Laboratory – Space Station Explorers

NASA – Growing food in space

Hawaii Space Exploration Analog + Simulation (HI-SEAS) base

Invertigrow – used in Hawaii Space Exploration Analog + Simulation (HI-SEAS) base

NASA – Houston We Have a Podcast
Plants in space

NASA – Explore Moon to Mars

NASA – Train like an Astronaut

NASA Podcast: Mission Patches

Lunar science teaching ideas


Week 4 Livestream

Past recordings

Week 3

Week 3 Recording – YouTube

Week 3 Recording – Vimeo

Week 2

Week 2 Recording – YouTube

Week 2 Recording – Vimeo

Week 1

Week 1 Recording – YouTube

Week 1 Recording – Vimeo

Full Teacher Information Session

Short Overview



Scott Sleap

Dr Scott Sleap
SISP Project Leader
Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence for Secondary Science Teaching
Commonwealth Bank Teaching Fellow

Ted Tagami

Ted Tagami
User Advisory Committee – Education Chair at ISS US National Lab
CoFounder of Magnitude

Ben Newsome

Ben Newsome
Churchill Fellow
AMP Tomorrow Maker

Founder of Fizzics Education

Wendy Bode

Wendy Bode
Deputy Principal – Global Tropics Future Project
Commonwealth Bank Teaching Fellow
QLD Virtual STEM Academy

Jim Christensen

Jim Christensen
Executive Director of ShareSpace Education, the education arm of the Aldrin Family Foundation

Ian Preston

Ian Preston
Deputy Principal NSW Virtual STEM Academy
Riverina STEM Project Officer

Lori Waters

Lori Waters
Vice President for Learning Experiences

Allan Ryan

Allan Ryan
Adjunct Professor at UTS Business School
Founder of Hargraves Institute

Kylie & Glenn

Kylie Burrett & Glenn Lawrence
GOLD Good Design Award Winner
Founders of Design Nuts

Dr Ken Hudson

Dr Ken Hudson
Lecturer at UTS
Speaker & Founder of Ideas Blitz

Gillian Hewitt

Gillian Hewitt
Founder of Imaginaturalists

Dr Adrian John Brown

Dr Adrian Brown
Planetary Science Researcher

Kirsten Banks
Kirsten Banks
Science Communicator

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki
Julius Sumner Miller Fellow
University of Sydney