National Physical Laboratory

Astro Pi winners announced

The winners of the nationwide Astro Pi competition, run by leading UK space organisations including the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), have been announced at the UK Space Conference by Tim Peake.

Astro Pi logo

Students from around the country have been coding their ideas to run on a modified Raspberry Pi computer that is going to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year. Well over 1,000 students from around the country have engaged with the project and a panel of leading UK space companies (including NPL), the UK Space Agency, Raspberry Pi and the UK Space Education Office (ESERO-UK) have judged all the coded ideas.

British ESA astronaut Tim Peake will operate the computer, dubbed the 'Astro Pi', on board the ISS during his six-month mission, starting in December. He will set the winning experiments running, collect the data generated and then download it to Earth where it will be distributed to the winning teams.

The Space-Byrds team from Thirsk School and Kieran Wand from Cottenham Village College won in the Key Stage 3 age group. Space-Byrd's application will use information about the ISS orbit to determine the country that the ISS is flying over and then display the flag of the country and a message for Tim using the LED matrix. Kieran Wand's application monitors the ISS environment with the Astro Pi sensors, and displays this data on the LED matrix. If values change outside a set range, an alert is displayed on the LED matrix.

The winners in the Key Stage 4 age group were from Lincoln University Technical College (UTC) and Westminster School. Oliver Turnball from Westminster School designed an experiment that uses the infrared camera on the Astro Pi to measure the Normalised Differentiated Vegetation Index (NDVI), which is a measure of the health of plants. Team Terminal from Lincoln UTC designed a suite of games that can be played on the Astro Pi and be used to study how crew's reaction times change during a long duration mission.

Magdalen College School, Oxford, won the Key Stage 5 age category by turning the Astro Pi into a cosmic ray detector. The camera on the Astro Pi is blanked off to stop visible light getting in but it will still allow space radiation and cosmic rays to get through. These are seen as flashes on the camera sensor.

These winning codes will be joined on the ISS by the winners of the primary school competition, which were announced earlier this year: Hannah Belshaw from Cumnor House Girl's School, Croydon, and the Cranmere Code Club, from Cranmere Primary School in Esher. Raspberry Pi has turned Hannah's idea into reality by taking the data recorded by the Astro Pi and representing it in a Minecraft world. Cranmere Code Club opted to code their own idea, with support from Raspberry Pi, to detect the presence of crew via changes in temperature and humidity.

In addition to the main prizes, UK space companies offered prizes in a number of themes. Kieran Wand also won the Measurements prize, sponsored by NPL, for his ISS environment monitoring system. Andrew Hanson, Outreach Manager at NPL, said: "I was particularly impressed with the ingenious idea of adapting the reading from the CPU temperature sensor to read ambient temperature. This required an understanding of modelling, calibration and traceability".

For over 40 years, NPL has worked with space companies and agencies, providing innovation in measurement research, technology and services. NPL is currently working with partners to develop TRUTHS (Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial- and Helio- Studies), a proposed satellite mission that can provide an in-orbit SI traceable calibration system. This could underpin and upgrade the measurement accuracy of the global Earth observation system, enabling the provision of climate data of sufficient quality to facilitate timely investment in climate adaptation, mitigation, policy and services. NPL is also working with the University of Surrey to develop the Global Sensing and Satellite Centre of Excellence (GloSS), a unique joint research centre combining measurement and satellite research, through a team of world class researchers, engineers and facilities and providing new global information services.

Find out more about Astro Pi

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Contact: Andrew Hanson

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Last Updated: 15 Jul 2015
Created: 15 Jul 2015

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