Students' Raspberry Pi computers to run on International Space Station

Astro Pi competition to send best two Raspberry Pi ideas on next International Space Station mission

Students will have the chance for their Raspberry Pi computers to be used in space, as British European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake will be taking two to the International Space Station (ISS) on his next mission.

Open to all primary and secondary schools in the UK, the Astro Pi competition will see students devise and code their own apps and experiments for use in space. The best two ideas will be sent to the ISS on Peake’s next six-month mission, with both being connected to an Astro Pi board.

During the mission, Peake will deploy the Astro PI computers onboard the ISS, collect the data generated and download it to Earth, where the winning teams will receive it.

Students have five themes to base their ideas on: spacecraft sensors, satellite imaging, space measurements, data fusion and space radiation.

The competition will be supported by teaching resources developed by the UK's European Space Education Resource Office and Raspberry Pi.

"I'm really excited about this project, born out of the co-operation among UK industries and institutions," said Peake. "There is huge scope for fun science and useful data gathering using the Astro Pi sensors on board the ISS.

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“This competition offers a unique chance for young people to learn core computing skills that will be extremely useful in their future. It's going to be a lot of fun!”

For primary schools, teams will be asked to think of an original idea for an experiment of application which can be conducted on the Astro Pi during the mission. The two best teams will work with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to code them ready for flight.

For secondary school teams, there are three age categories – each of Key Stages 3, 4 and 5 in England and Wales, and their equivalent ages in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Phase one of the competition will enable students to submit their experiment and application ideas, with 50 submissions winning a Raspberry Pi computer and an Astro Pi board to code their idea. 

Phase two will require students to code their idea, with two winning teams selected in each category. The winning teams’ code will be readied for flight by the Raspberry Pi Foundation and CGI.

Speaking at the launch of the competition, UK Space Agency chief executive David Parker also revealed the agency had been given a £2m programme to support further outreach activities around the mission, as part of the chancellor of the exchequer's recent Autumn Statement.

According to business secretary Vince Cable, not enough people are being trained in the field of big data, despite so much technology relying on it.

"This challenge helps the next generation to have fun while learning the skills that industry need," he said. “Creating tomorrow’s engineers is part of our industrial strategy that gives a long-term commitment to world-class skills.”

In addition to the main prizes, a prize has also been offered by each of the UK space companies supporting the project.

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