top of page
White on Transparent.png

Coming to the Sunshine Coast Australia

September 2020 

The Experience

The Higher Ground Astronautics Academy is a residential experiential programme combining STEM skills with underwater robotics and pool-based SCUBA. The programme simulates the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, where astronauts train prior to scientific missions aboard the International Space Station. 


The original programme concept was created by Russ Billings, a Physics and Chemistry teacher, who in 2003 was part of the NASA Astronaut Candidate Programme and who then went on to work for five years as a NASA STEM Educator. Higher Ground continues to develop and deliver the programme in collaboration with Russ Billings, whose NASA and STEM knowledge, skills and experience are central to the design and delivery of the Higher Ground Astronautics Academy. 


The programme instils self-confidence through an Explore, Engage, and Inspire model. Basic SCUBA skills are taught to simulate the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, allowing students to explore, solve problems and develop teamwork while learning how to perform missions and conduct scientific experiments underwater.


Participants will live and work together for 7 days in crews of 4, each of which will be guided by an experienced experiential learning facilitator. In addition to these facilitators, there will be a variety of robotics, SCUBA and experiential learning professionals that will add to the professional makeup of the Astronautics Academy delivery team. 

russ 1.png

Complete missions in the NBL

The Components

Mission Operations

Each of the crews will complete a variety of land based and underwater problem solving challenges in mechanics, engineering, physics and physiology. These challenges will be a preparation for the crew-based competition on the final day of the programme. 


Underwater Robotics

Each crew will design, build and operate an Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (UROV) in support of the mission operations and as part of the final competition. 



To simulate zero gravity and the environment in the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, each participant will receive training by certified professional SCUBA dive instructors, enabling them to safely and confidently perform experiments, challenges and the final competition underwater. The skills that participants will learn are all aligned with the SSI internationally recognized SCUBA diving qualification. 


21st Century Learning and Leadership Competencies 

In addition to specific STEM related learning, the Astronautics Academy makes use of all the activities and experiences to develop the participants Innovation, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration through a real-world learning experience. This learning will be maximised by professional facilitators who will act as crew mentors to guide and assist the individual crews through their entire 7-day experience. These facilitaors will conduct regular debreifng sessions, assist individuals and crews with challenges they experience and ultimately aim towards developing a growth mindset in all participants.

Picture 1.png

Build, test and perfect your UROVs 

The Outcomes

  • Participants will develop and apply STEM concepts into real-world and challenging problem solving environments, enabling them to build an applied interest and passion for STEM.

  • Participants will understand and develop future learning and leadership skills of Innovation, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration through a real-world learning experience.

  • Participants will develop confidence in their abilities through a programme, which reinforces iterative design thinking, and belief in the participant’s own ideas and ways of thinking.

  • Participants will develop belief in their own leadership through the development of challenging skills and the application of these into real-world scenarios. 


Our strategic partners


The Details

  • Price: $2,500 per participant​

  • (Early Bird price: $2,380 per participant before June 30th)

    • Price includes

      • All food and accommodation for the 7 days

      • All specialised SCUBA equipment and qualified instructors

      • T-Shirt and Water bottle

  • Dates: 21st - 27th of September 2020

  • Location: Sunshine Coast Queensland

bottom of page