Just over a week ago now we closed the Secondary School phase of the Astro Pi competition after a one week extension to the deadline. Students from all over the UK have uploaded their code hoping that British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake win run it on the ISS later this year!
Last week folks from the leading UK Space companies, the UK Space Agency and ESERO UK met with us at Pi Towers in Cambridge to do the judging. We used the actual flight Astro Pi units to test run the submitted code. You can see one of them on the table in the picture below:
The standard of entries was incredibly high and we were blown away by how clever some of them were!
Doug Liddle of SSTL said:
Jeremy Curtis, Head of Education at the UK Space Agency, said:
When Tim Peake flies to the ISS in December he will have the two Astro Pis in his personal cargo allowance. He’ll also have 10 especially prepared SD cards which will contain the winning applications. Time is booked into his operations schedule to deploy the Astro Pis and set the code running and afterwards he will recover any output files created. These will then be returned to their respective owners and made available online for everyone to see.
Code was received for all secondary school key stages and we even have several from key stage 2 primary schools. These were judged along with the key stage 3 entries. So without further adieu here comes a breakdown of who won and what their code does:
Each of these programs have been assigned an operational code name that will be used when talking about them over the space to ground radio. These are essentially arbitrary so don’t read into them too much!
Ops name: FLAGS
Ops name: MISSION CONTROL
Andy Powell of the Knowledge Transfer Network said:
Ops name: TREES
Ops name: REACTION GAMES
Lincoln UTC have also won the prize for the best overall submission in the Secondary School completion. This earns them a photograph of their school taken from space by an Airbus or SSTL satellite. Go and make a giant space invader please!
Ops name: RADIATION
What blew us away was that they had taken their Astro Pi and camera module along to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and fired a neutron cannon at it to test it was working!!!
The code can even compensate for dead pixels in the camera sensor. I am wondering if they killed some pixels with the neutron cannon and then had to add that code out of necessity? Brilliant.
These winning programs will be joined on the ISS by the winners of the Primary School Competition which closed in April:
Ops name: MINECRAFT
Ops name: SWEATY ASTRONAUT
Obviously the main winning prize is to have your code flown and run on the ISS. However the UK Space companies also offered a number of thematic prizes which were awarded independently of those that have been chosen to fly. Some cross over with the other winners was expected here.
Pat Norris of CGI said:
We’re aiming to have all the code that was submitted to the competition on one of the ten SD cards that will fly. So your code will still fly even if it won’t be scheduled to be run in space. The hope is that, during periods of downtime, Tim may have a look through some of the other entries and run them manually. But this depends on a lot of factors outside of our control and so we can’t promise anything.
But wait, there’s more?
There is still opportunity for all schools to get involved with Astro Pi!
There will be an on-orbit activity during the mission (probably in January or February) that you can all do at the same time as Tim. After the competition winning programs have all finished the Astro Pi will enter a phase of flight data recording. Just like the black box on an aircraft.
This will make the Astro Pi continually record everything from all its sensors and save the data into a file that you can get! If you set your Astro Pi up in the same way (the software will be provided by us) then you can compare his measurements with yours taken on the ground.
There is then a lot of educational value in looking at the differences and understanding why they occur. For instance you could look at the accelerometer data to find out when ISS reboosts occurred or study the magnetometer data to find out how the earth’s magnetic field changes as they orbit the earth. A number of free educational resources will be provided that will help you to leverage the value of this exercise.
The general public can also get involved when the Sense HAT goes on general sale in a few weeks time.
Libby Jackson of the UK Space Agency said:
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Astro Pi: Mission Update 4
at 9:30 AM