The HALO Enterprise and Innovation Centre in Kilmarnock this week welcomed NASA astronaut, Dr. Kathleen Rubins, who has spent a total of 300 days in space, to the award-winning facility.
In a major coup for the HALO, Dr. Rubins addressed an audience of invited business guests and a group of Ayrshire schoolchildren. She told the story of the 60th woman ever to travel into space and how the opportunities are widening for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) – a particular focus for the HALO.
This is the latest collaboration between the HALO and Dr. Rubins who, during Expedition 63/64 on the International Space Station (ISS), took a piece of HALO’s very own tartan into space. The tartan was designed by Ayrshire College student, and now a HALO tenant, Graham Bone, who won a competition to design the HALO tartan and which now features in many designs and furnishings on the HALO #RockMe Trading Floor.
Following Dr. Rubins’ safe return to Earth, the precious piece of cargo was brought back to the HALO in June 2022 by Professor David Alexander OBE, Director of Rice Space Institute at Rice University in Houston, Texas. It was subsequently showcased during a public event held in collaboration with HALO partner, Barclays Eagle Labs. The event also spotlighted Prestwick Spaceport, which aims to launch its first commercial rocket in Spring 2024 and highlighted the commitment of the HALO to the local Ayrshire and wider Scottish economies.
Dr. Kathleen Rubins, said: “I am excited to be here in Scotland and getting to visit the HALO project in person. Space exploration is an international endeavour and future success lies in engaging and encouraging the next generation. Having the opportunity to bring NASA’s message to the young people of Scotland, I hope will inspire some of them to think of a future in helping us achieve our mission.”
Prof. David Alexander OBE, Director of the Rice Space Institute, added: “It has been a great privilege to be connected to the HALO project in this small way and it is an honour to be able to accompany Kate on this trip. NASA, Rice and HALO are all about inspiring the next generation of explorers whether on the Earth or in space and we look forward to future collaborations.”
Dr. Marie Macklin CBE, Founder and Executive Chair of HALO Urban Regeneration Company, said: “To be able to welcome Dr Rubins not just to the HALO, but to Scotland, is a privilege both for me and the team.
“Since Dr Rubins rocketed a little bit of the HALO and Scotland into space back in 2020, we have celebrated a number of successes including award wins and visits from prestigious business leaders and politicians, but more importantly, we have been able to welcome a wide variety of organisations who have made the HALO Enterprise and Innovation Centre their home.
“We are thrilled to welcome Dr Rubins to Kilmarnock and to have the opportunity to update her on the impact the HALO is making in Ayrshire and across the country.”
Jack Hillmeyer, United States Consul General, said: “Dr. Rubins visit helps highlight the importance of encouraging more women and girls into STEM and demonstrates the dynamic people-to-people connections that bind our two nations together in friendship. It is great to have HALO blazing a trail here in Scotland and see its innovative model to sustainable economic development serve as an example to many.”
With a vision for a dynamic commercial, educational, cultural, leisure and lifestyle quarter, where people can ‘Live, Work, Learn and Play’, the HALO is at the forefront of creating an innovative and sustainable economy. By providing a sustainable community approach, deploying low carbon, digital and clean energy technology, this mixed-use development is now creating jobs, economic growth and skills development, clean energy and 210 smart homes in the heart of Kilmarnock.
The HALO has attracted attention from not just UK-based organisations but an international audience, including the Israeli Government, who are keen to understand how what has been achieved in Kilmarnock can be replicated globally.
Dr. Rubins’ visit to the HALO is her first to Scotland and while in Kilmarnock she met some of the entrepreneurial organisations thriving at the HALO as well as a wide variety of invited guests from across the Scottish business landscape. A selection of local Ayrshire schoolchildren learned more about Dr. Rubins and the positive impact the HALO has on the local community. During her visit, Dr. Rubins told her story at a school in Lenzie and spent a day with researchers at the National Robotarium and the University of Edinburgh during her visit to Scotland.