Ballenas Secondary School students Victor Kamel, Yehia El Karsh and Spencer Bradbury. (Cloe Logan photo)

Parksville students code Raspberry Pi for space

Experiment from Ballenas trio will be sent to International Space Station

Grade 12 students Spencer Bradbury, Victor Kamel and Yehia El Karsh are all busy balancing high school at Ballenas, as well as learning how to code a Raspberry Pi.

The three students say they’ve spent approximately 10 hours per week working on their experiment for the past couple of months, which will eventually be sent into the International Space Station’s orbit.

They’re working on coding a Raspberry Pi, which is a single-board computer, to detect small changes to the ISS’s orbit as it moves through the thin upper atmosphere of the earth.

Kamel sent a project to the ISS last year where he and a team of other Ballenas students were able to grow alfalfa sprouts in space, so he was inspired to search for other opportunities. When he came across this one, an educational initiative by the European Space Agency and the Raspberry Pi Foundation, they started talking about what could be be done with the computer.

“Every year they run a contest for people to write a program that can be sent up, uplinked, and we’ll run it there for three hours and collect some data and then when the data is transferred back to us we would actually do some analysis on that data and see if we could come up with some kind of conclusions,” he said.

READ MORE: ‘It was kind of surreal’: Parksville students grow sprouts in space

They started talking among themselves, as well as with their computer science, physics and specialized science teacher Carl Savage, about the potential for the Raspberry Pi’s accelerometer to detect changes in the atmosphere.

“So, that’s a sensor on the small chip right here that measures the acceleration of the Raspberry Pi in this case, so if I move it quickly this way it will read acceleration value in one of the three cardinal directions,” explained Kamel. “So we want to see if there’s any correlation between the density that’s in the thermosphere and what’s underneath the ISS at that time, for example like an ocean, land or a mountain.”

Right now they’re in the process of writing the code for the project.

They all have varying levels of experience with coding, and say they’re all learning a lot as they go.

“It’s definitely a very rewarding experience seeing our work pay off and coming together as a group to do something that none of us have ever done before,” said Bradbury.

cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

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