Space School at the University of Kent

Space School, which has been running at the University of Kent since 2001, provides an intensive two day experience aimed at introducing 11 – 18 year olds to the many different fields of space activity, and giving them an awareness of the course and career profiles on which they could embark to become tomorrow’s space professionals. The first weekend of the 1st and 2nd August was for 11 to 14 year olds and the second weekend of the 8th and 9th August was for the 15 to 18 age group.There were about 40 youngsters attending each weekend.

“ Matt M0LMK setting up the FUNcube satellite antenna
Matt M0LMK setting up the FUNcube satellite antenna

The Hilderstone Radio club G0HRS contributed to the evening events with a hunt for satellites. In the lecture theatre John G7OHO explained how we would use the website Heavens-above to find out the time and pass of an Iridium satellite, the FUNcube and the ISS. Most of the youngsters had already seen an Iridium flare and all but one had seen the ISS. However none of them had heard of the FUNcube – except for one lad who had told his teacher about it. We had a wide range of guesses as to the size of the FUNcube and they were astonished to hear how small it is. Similarly they had no idea as to how long it would take to orbit the Earth. We showed them a screen shot of the dashboard to explain what data the satellite would send. All their hands shot up to volunteer to steer the antenna. Also they were really excited about receiving a message from space when told that the FUNcube satellite had a special message for them as we had organised an appropriate fitter message. We proceeded to the observing area where the University has two observatories and Matt Payne M0LMK set up the antenna and FUNcube dongle.

“ One of the students pointing the antenna at the satellite
One of the students pointing the antenna at the satellite

Despite the low power of the transmitter we were able to pick up a signal and show them the data and message wishing everyone at the Space School a fun weekend. The demonstration certainly fired their enthusiasm. They saw how the temperature of the satellite varied in its orbit as well as the voltage and current from the solar panels. The student helpers too found it very interesting and we received their approval with ‘it was really cool!’

“ John G7OHO explaining which satellites we would see
John G7OHO explaining which satellites we would see

 

 

 

When we first asked the youngsters to name a satellite, other than Sky TV, they were unable to do so but they were keen to learn more.