The Raspberry Pi allows teachers to create an entertaining learning environment without students realizing that they’re actually working through a classroom curriculum. Students can stretch their imaginations when creating games and animating characters, tracking objects in real-time, or constructing a classroom piano made with fruit.
With the school year in full swing, it’s a great time to introduce a coding competition. All that is needed is a willing mentor and an eager group of students. Are you ready?
The European Space Agency and the Raspberry Pi Foundation have teamed up to create an exciting way for students to get their work into space. For Mission Space Lab, your assignment is to build a scientific experiment that is capable of working with the Astro Pi computers aboard the International Space Station.
Teams with winning ideas will receive their Astro Pi kit and will move on to making their experiment come alive!
What Is Astro Pi?
The two Astro Pi devices aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are space-hardened Raspberry Pi computers equipped with gadgets and environmental sensors enabling astronauts to complete experiments during missions. The idea of running student-led programs in space goes back to 2015.
The sensors that are paired with the Astro Pi devices help do some really cool stuff:
- Measure temperature readings from ISS electrical signals.
- Determine motion, orientation, and heading.
- Speed up machine learning model calculations.
- Detect moving objects with infrared light.
Check out the Astro Pi Sensors page to dive into more details about these sensors in space.
Getting Ready for Takeoff
Before you can take part, you’ll need to do the following:
- Confirm your team is eligible to participate.
- Complete mentor sign-up for the team.
- Pick a theme: investigate life on earth or life in space?
- Design your scientific experiment.
- Submit your idea by October 28th, 2022.
All competition details including timelines and checklists, theme information, helpful resources, as well as eligibility criteria, can be found on the Mission Space Lab page.
Design Your Idea
Ensure that you are thorough with your design as only teams with winning ideas will receive an Astro Pi kit. The kit includes everything your team needs to create your experiment. If this happens, your team will be able to move on to phase 2: Create!
Which theme will you choose? If your team has an interest in photography, then consider investigating the planet’s surface by making use of the Astro Pi camera.
Alternatively, your team can investigate life inside the International Space Station Columbus module. You’ll be able to have fun with both camera and sensors; however, no photo or video recording features can be included as the astronauts prefer to work in private.
Both themes will have design considerations that your team will have to place additional thought around. Head over to the Astro Pi Life on Earth or Life in Space contest page for details on the experiment requirements.
As you work through testing your design, familiarize the team with our guide on setting up a Raspberry Pi camera module. While you’re researching, it will also be a good time to review our introduction to the Raspberry Pi device with your students.
Try This At Home
You can still participate in a smaller Astro Pi project if you’re not competing, or just want to practice your skills before the Mission Space Lab idea results are officially announced. You can send astronauts a message that includes the relative humidity on board the ISS using the newest Mark II Sense HAT.
All you need is an internet connection and a web browser that can view this virtual Sense HAT using trinket.io. The Raspberry Pi Foundation provides a step-by-step project resource that will guide you through the Mission Zero experiment. Teachers may want to download the Astro Pi PDF instruction guide (should you need to make learning easier for a larger audience).
Although Mission Zero is not an eligible contest at this time, it’s still a great way to interact with the Astro Pi at home.
Life on Earth? Life in Space?
Don’t worry too much about which scientific experiment to complete. Choose what is exciting for you and your team. As you get involved in the design process, the likelihood is that you’ll forget you’re even learning at all. Enjoy the process and hopefully your idea will be chosen to move on to the Create phase. Experiments that pass that phase will be awarded ‘flight status’ and be deployed on board the ISS!