Inspiring the next generation of space entrepreneurs through IoT

Imagine your children being able to create and launch their own satellites. What would they invent if they could take photos from space, study the stars and planets, and monitor everything from weather data to plant health right here on earth?

Today, satellite technology combined with the cloud computing can extend the reach of our capabilities to explore the world around us by capturing data from its environment and helping us to build insights. Once the sole domain of governments and a few large corporations, space and environmental exploration through data recently became a reality for hundreds of youth who attended AzureCraft, a two-day community tech event held at Microsoft’s UK headquarters, bringing developers and students together for a hands-on experience with a variety of technologies, including tiny, low-cost satellites called “nano satellites,” powered by the Internet of Things (IoT).

Using the sensors from a Satellite MicroKit, a nano satellite kit built with a BBC micro:bit, kids and developers at AzureCraft explored innovative applications using the data they collect from nano satellites. The first phase of the project makes satellite technology accessible and shows people how to collect and analyze data to build an IoT experiment.

Students attending AzureCraft assemble nano satellites complete with cameras and fly them on helium balloons to capture photos of the earth.

The project is an initiative from the Satellite Applications Catapult, an independent innovation and technology company that is working to inspire the next generation of space engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs. With support from Microsoft, the project has reached its first milestone with the design and development of the first set of easy-to-use MicroKits. Each kit is roughly five centimeters (two inches) cubed and includes a camera, an electronic compass, a temperature sensor, an ultra-violet and infrared light sensor, and a micro SD card reader that allows users to save the data they collect.

Students were shown how it is possible to control the nano satellites using a mission control app from their smartphones, aggregating and displaying the data they collect using Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. The next phase of the project will look at how Satellite Applications Catapult can make this technology available to a national audience through support from the community.

The hope is that the MicroKit will inspire the next generation of developers to design a wide range of projects that lead to a better understanding of space and earth. Using infrared data, for example, students can develop an early warning system that helps farmers improve the health of their crops. Because plants exhibit their health up to seven days earlier in the infrared spectrum than in the visible light spectrum, farmers can use this data to plot the health of their vegetation, taking quicker action when their crops begin to fail. Similarly, students can design apps that map climate change, forecast drought, predict earthquakes—all by gathering data from IoT sensors launched into space. Said one student who participated at AzureCraft, “It’s totally going to be an amazing project, and it’s going to find those people who actually think they have the potential to change the world.”

As students build nano satellites, the hope is to inspire youth to design projects that lead to a better understanding of space and earth.
As students build nano satellites, the hope is to inspire youth to design projects that lead to a better understanding of space and earth.

The ultimate goal of the project is to increase student interest in computers and science at a time when space-based observations are poised to transform our understanding of the earth, our solar system, and the greater universe. As Stuart Martin, Chief Executive of the Satellite Applications Catapult, put it: “The opportunity to make satellite technology accessible to everyone is exciting. These technologists of the future will be building a new generation of digital businesses that leverages this opportunity across a range of industries.”

To learn more, please watch the Nano Satellite Project video or go to http://Buildubo.co.uk. For more information on how the power of IoT can transform your organization, visit www.InternetofYourThings.com.

 

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