Craigmount pupils make satellite for space contest

Aparna Potluru, Stefan Evens and Alistair Carson, all 17, with CanSat. Picture: Greg Macvean
Aparna Potluru, Stefan Evens and Alistair Carson, all 17, with CanSat. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A Craigmount High classroom has been transformed into a space lab by pupils building a miniature satellite.

It is hoped the tiny orbiter – the same size as a can of Irn Bru – will help battle killer forest fires.

Physics teacher Murat Gullen, who is helping steer the exciting space lesson, said: “It’s a really big challenge for them.”

The 11-strong “CanSat” team will pit the hi-tech gadget against devices created by teams from schools across the UK as part of a nationwide competition organised by the European Space Agency (ESA).

With advanced circuitry, sensors and a parachute packed into a soft drinks can, the satellite will investigate “cloud seeding” by releasing silver iodide after launching thousands of feet into the air on the back of a rocket.

S6 advanced higher physics student Aparna Potluru, 17, also the team’s only girl member, said: “This is the first time we’ve competed in the advanced competition.

“It’s really hard work but it’s also a good way of applying the knowledge we’ve learned in class in a more practical way.

“There’s a lot of problem solving involved.”

As entrants to the competition’s advanced section, the Craigmount pupils were tasked with making a “drinks can” satellite capable of measuring atmospheric temperature and pressure as it descends after blasting off from a launch site in York.

Each team has also been instructed to take on a secondary mission, with Craigmount pupils opting to design their device so it can measure atmospheric pH, or acidity, and deposit silver iodide into the atmosphere.

The pupils said the aim was to produce “solid particles” needed to begin the process of forming clouds whose rain could put out destructive forest fires.

S6 pupil Stefan Evens, 17, who is also studying advanced higher physics, said: “Because we’re in the advanced level, we really had to do something a bit more technically challenging.

“It will be difficult – there are a lot of technicalities in putting the parachute in and making sure the satellite can travel to the correct coordinates for the designated area.

“But we’ve learned a lot and I personally have learned a lot more about aerodynamics and the chemistry of clouds.”

The team’s effort has been praised by Craigmount staff, who added that pupils still needed to raise nearly £1800 for travel, accommodation and publicity purposes ahead of the launch in March.

Delighted teacher Murat said his pupils – the only state-educated youngsters in the competition – were working extremely hard and that any donation from local residents and businesses would be welcome.

He said: “It really requires a lot of work.”