Space: the final frontier. This is the story of CoderDojo Belgium’s Astro Pi team. Their one-year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

This may sound like fiction for you, but for some of our coders, this is reality. In September, two Belgian CoderDojo teams embarked on a mission: Astro Pi’s Mission Space Lab. Their goal: write the code for a real experiment that will be run in space. No walk in the park but our coders were up for the challenge.

They went to work like real rocket scientists. Two teams were assembled from Dojos in Lier, Ypres and Menin. They also joined forces with CoderDojo Argentina and their Dojo in Cordoba. Borders do not matter anymore when you are space bound. Ideas were exchanged and experiments were shaped. Astro Pi, was impressed and selected one of our teams for the next phase.

In phase two, they were up for some hard work. The experiment needs to be implemented on an Astro Pi (a kind of Raspberry Pi with extra sensors). What makes the Astro Pi unique is that it is located 400km above our heads in the International Space Station (ISS). An exact copy of the Astro Pi was send to our team and, after some assembling; they started working on their experiment.

No easy job for our codonauts Simon, Wout, Dries and Quinten. A lot of coding needed to be done in just three months’ time. On top of that, mid-terms interrupted the workflow of our scientists. Still, with some help of CoderDojo Ypres coach Sam Decoster, they finished in time. Space ace Dries ‘Buzz’ Verhoeve took on the largest part of the code. “All together, we must have spent about 60 hours on this project”, calculates Dries proudly. “Space requires some sacrifices.”

They were rewarded for their hard work. Team Ursa Major, as our coders called themselves, was selected as one of only 114 projects worldwide to achieve flight status. At the end of March, their code will be beamed up to the ISS to run on the Astro Pi. During two orbits, the experiment will take pictures of the earth and calculate how many green, water and earth can be seen. Afterwards, the collected data can be used to calculate different types of vegetation. So if you are looking up any time soon, remember you are being watched.

Are you dreaming of planets and rockets? You can see team Ursa Major and their Astro Pi in action during Coolest Projects. Go to https://coolestprojects.be/#en for more info.

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