The Manchester Space Programme was launched as part of the UK Space Agency’s Space For All initiative in 2013 to help the Manchester community develop facilities and know-how to explore space and near space. The first phase of the programme exceeded expectations by developing and launching numerous successful High Altitude Balloon experiments. In phase two, we are ramping up the number of missions with the Piconaut Project to open access to launches for schools and community groups to promote access to space for all. Each participating school or group will be able to take part in building, launching, tracking and monitoring a high altitude balloon as it travels around the world. Using high technology parts that are cheap to produce, we have designed the Piconaut product to be launched and controlled by organisations that were previously excluded because of cost or scientific ability. They now only require access to the Internet to be able to monitor the progress of their experiment.
What we'll deliver:
Why it's a great idea:
We have demonstrated that there is scope to create learning platforms that help both teachers, students and schoolchildren to make meaningful differences to learning. Often educational technology created in this arena is pitched at teachers, but has little thought for members of the public. In this respect, the teacher IS a member of the public and everyone is encouraged to undertake the experiment without a deep technological understanding of the components or their construction. All can benefit in their own way from exploring near space albeit the science of barometric high altitude readings and tracking data, learning about the places and cultures of the country the balloon is passing over or the details of the technology using in the construction and build. There are many opportunities for the community to gather together to explore near space in their own way and at their own pace.
Steps to get it done:
The new science-led technologies present challenges to members of the public such as the perceptions of high cost, high risk, high complexity. We attempt to dispel these challenges by presenting a range of alternative, fun opportunities to learn engineering, electronics and computing. Pupils, students and the general public will be able to look doing things in a fun and different way and possibly, more appropriately. For instance, we produced a co-linear dipole antenna for the Piconaut Project that turns the 'string' holding the payload to the balloon into a fully functioning antenna capable of transmitting a low power radio signal from near space to earth. We recently, successfully tested this at an altitude of 30 kilometres. Such knowledge of alternative methods for solving problems empowers pupils, students and other members of the community to take part in such initiatives while improving their knowledge and access to the high technology solutions of the future.
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