Supporting youth, developing education, investing in the future: Noosphere’s two years of the great war

26 Feb 2024

Two years ago, Ukrainians’ lives were divided into before and after. February 24 marked the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of our country , the largest campaign of armed aggression since World War II. However, despite the danger, difficulties, and air raid sirens, Ukrainians have not given in, but instead continue to live and develop their country with redoubled zeal. We would like to share Association Noosphere’s memories from the past two years of resistance.

Noosphere had many for 2022. At the beginning of February, we began our annual children’s drawing competition, the Noosphere Space Art Challenge. However, the full-scale Russian invasion of Russian troops prevented it from being completed. Therefore, the prize fund of the competition was directed to purchasing medicine and basic supplies for displaced people.

However, the story of our children’s drawings was not over. Noosphere asked Australian author Jade Meitre for permission to translate some of her space stories into Ukrainian in order to inspire kids and distract them from the distressing situation around them. Meitre explored our collection of children’s pictures and was inspired to write a book especially for these kids. This was how she created Ukraine Space Hotel, a story about children’s dreams coming true.

Together with all of Ukraine, we volunteered and helped those who needed it most. Students and mentors of Noosphere Engineering School chapters throughout Ukraine also joined the volunteer movement, and we held practical classes and lectures on first aid and self-defense in our Dnipro laboratory. Our Noosphere Archeology and WheelKeep teams built protective structures around the stone sculpture in the courtyard of the Dnipro History Museum. Planetarium Noosphere offered  free sessions for displaced people to support them and provide a distraction from the horrors of war.

In order to cheer children up in these difficult times, Noosphere worked with talented artist Tetyana Kramarenko to organize a series of webinars for children based on the therapeutic fairy tale On the Planet of Dreams Come True. More than 500 from around Ukraine took part.

In fact, supporting children became the primary aim of Noosphere’s initiatives of the first year of the full-scale invasion. For International Children’s Day, we organized Noosphere Children’s Day with space and creative activities for more than 50 children. We also launched the Noosphere Birthday Cards social postcrossing initiative. Little boys and girls received more than 600 space drawings done by their peers for their birthdays during the year.

Despite the war, Association Noosphere continued working to develop Ukrainian STEM. In the summer of 2022, Noosphere held its STEM Camp for young Mariupolans in Dnipro, as well as the VEX Robo Week STEM course in autumn.

We also organized the first Noosphere Space Games virtual rocket modeling competition in Ukraine. Two competitions – in summer and autumn – gathered more than 1,200 participants from across the country.

We were able to keep up our tradition of holding the  local stage of the NASA Space Apps Challenge, the world’s largest international space hackathon, in October 2022. 195 participants took part, creating 41 teams and presenting 38 projects. The NEXT SPACE LAB team was included in the list of 47 entries that made it to the Global Finalists Honorable Mentions.

We met the year 2023 accustomed to our new reality and ready for new challenges. After all, Association Noosphere has made it its mission to develop Ukrainian STEM and to educate our country’s future technological elite of the state – two goals which will be crucial to Ukraine’s post-war recovery and development.

We held two Noosphere Space Games competitions, with one of the winners earning an internship at the Noosphere Ventures company Flight Control Propulsion. We also hosted two lectures by top space experts Conor Nixon, a – planetary scientist and head of the Laboratory of Planetary Systems at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and Tim Flohrer, head of the Space Debris Office of the European Space Agency.

In autumn, we also held the 2023 local stage of the NASA Space Apps Challenge in Dnipro, gathering a record 245 participants from 4 countries.

We also worked on robotics education. Association Noosphere held 6 large-scale events, including the VEXcode VR Cleanup Challenge, which was Ukraine’s first official competition using the American VEX robotics platform, thereby putting  Ukraine on the international map of official robotics events. We also held the VEX Maze Challenge – a STEM course and a robotics competition; VEX RoboWeek 2023 – a grant project as part of our Programming Week and the European initiative Meet&Code; and the VEX Marathon – a tour of VEX constructors across Ukraine. Noosphere also joined five partner projects and introduced 559 Ukrainian schoolchildren to VEX constructors. In total, more than 2,700 children participated in our robotics activities.

We published two books in English in 2023: I Love Dnipro by the Association Noosphere team, and Beyond the Sky: The Great Space Cleanup, a graphic novel by Dutch authors Jan and Joachim Checherski. To commemorate the latter’s release, Noosphere organized a contest among schoolchildren in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. More than 300 children sent drawings, audio podcasts, presentations, stories, and animations about space debris.

In its fight against the aggressor, Ukraine enjoyed support from all corners of the world. For its part, Association Noosphere was proud to partner with prominent international specialists, from famous French muralist Julien Mallan (known as Seth Globepainter), to astronaut and European Space Agency specialist Karthik Kumar, and many more.

We also teamed up with our country’s state institutions, universities, and cultural organizations. Association Noosphere signed memoranda and cooperation agreements with seven new partners to jointly develop Ukraine’s youth.

Ukraine is still going through difficult times two years into the war. While the military defends us on the battlefield, the task of every one on the home front is to do everything possible to keep our country going and developing even during wartime. There are still many challenges ahead, interesting projects to work on, and thousands of young talents to support. We believe fervently in our work to create a better future for our free, independent Ukraine.