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In the news - Anu Ojha

Who is he?

Anu Ojha, 41, is the director of education and space communications at the National Space Centre in Leicester. In March he was awarded the Inspiration Award at the 2010 Sir Arthur Clarke Awards at the UK Space Conference at Charterhouse. Mr Ojha was a secondary science teacher for 13 years before being approached to join the National Space Centre.

In what way are you an inspiration?

"I shy away from the word 'inspiration'," says Mr Ojha. "It is used so much in education. I'm just doing what I love doing. By sharing my excitement for space I have seen a five-year-old get excited and a 40 or 50-year-old cynic get excited. Space is a topic that captures the imagination, and I use it as a vehicle to deliver education."

Vehicle? Like how?

"I am the director of a multi-institution space project that looks at how space can be taught in the curriculum. It's called the Space Academy. We do education programmes, summer schools, roadshows and conferences. I still teach as part of the programme. Just before Easter I spent a day with high-achieving Year 13s and a day with borderline Year 10s."

What do the pupils make of it all?

"You can teach the topic as an abstract theory and the pupils like that; they like stories. For example, the idea of Mars is a huge mystery. It's a schizophrenic planet. There are tantalising clues, lots of evidence and you can encourage the pupils to ask questions."

Do you space them out?

"A lot of them love it. The UK space industry is our best kept secret. There are 19,000 jobs within it, but pupils think that to get involved and work with space you have to work for Nasa. That's not true. Take me, for example."

But you say you're still a teacher?

"I still think of myself as a teacher. The excitement I feel about science every day is what I teach about."

Regrets about blasting off to space?

"My role has given me the opportunity to input ideas that are listened to nationally. Working on the Space Academy means I have had to learn how to run a business. I am pleased to be in this position because I have given other teachers the opportunity to work with Space Academy and some of those teachers have been recognised for their outstanding work too."

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