Leeds student joins the space race

Friday 19 September 2014

WEB GSAL space mission with bear

Student Andrew Huff was on cloud nine after his carefully planned project to launch a teddy bear into space passed off without a hitch during the summer holidays.

Andrew, now in the lower sixth at The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL), took his mind off his impending GCSE results by devising a scheme to collect locational data and weather information at high altitude, using a Raspberry Pi computer and a weather balloon.

Once the Civil Aviation Authority had issued clearance and the weather was fair, the launch took place at Bolton Abbey. The balloon, supplied by Chris Hillcox of Balloon News web store, was carrying a payload of two teddy bears, one Raspberry Pi computer for logging altitude, temperature and GPS position, two cameras, GPS trackers and parachutes.

Aspiring aeronautical engineer Andrew said: “I’ve always been interested in flight and I was inspired by Felix Baumgartner’s high altitude sky dive – my balloon got within 13km of the altitude he jumped from.”

The balloon landed near Clitheroe after a flight of over an hour and a half, having reached an altitude of 26.7km and a top speed of 109mph. The lowest temperature recorded was minus 50 degrees Celsius. Having collected the data, Andrew then had to teach himself the programming language Python to interpret it.

Andrew concluded: “It was a great learning experience, from what went right and what could have gone better! I’ve had to master new technical and programming skills, as well as learning about project management, and I’m grateful to everyone who helped me.”

Back at mission control, GSAL’s head of ICT and computing Tim Street, who advised Andrew on the programming, said: “GSAL’s first unmanned space mission was a tremendous success. Andrew did a brilliant job of building the payload and organising the whole launch, which took a huge amount of work.”

With ten GCSEs, nine at A*, Andrew is now studying five AS-levels and has been awarded a prestigious Arkwright Engineering Scholarship which will help him on the path to his future in engineering and technical design.

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