Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 5th 2014 Contents SUNDAY,
How would a compass behave in
space or in the earth s ionosphere?
What if you sent up an uncharged
battery there---what would happen?
What about sending up live mos-
quito larvae in a gel---how would
life be affected? What if you sent
up a pendulum---what might it do?
Students at NorthGate College
explored many creative ideas, includ-
ing these ones, before deciding on
their winning entry in the Cubes in
Space project: an ionisation exper-
iment to measure whether an elec-
tromagnetic field is generated in the
"It was an experiment to test
whether we could harvest electricity
from space or if there was an elec-
trical charge in the ionosphere. If
so, could it be recorded? And was
it a reasonable enough amount to
use?" explained Zachary Joel last
Wednesday when students involved
in the project chatted with the Sun-
The ionosphere, I learned, is the
layer in the upper atmosphere that
is ionised by solar and cosmic radi-
ation. The sun's energy is so strong
at this level that it breaks apart mol-
ecules. Even though the ionosphere
is tiny---it occupies only 0.1 per cent
of the earth's total atmosphere---it
is very important for us: it makes
long-distance radio communication
possible by reflecting radio waves
back to earth. The ionosphere is also
home to auroras. If electrical energy
can indeed be harvested here, we
might have a new renewable source.
It took students two weeks of
brainstorming before coming up with
the winning "ionisation in the
atmosphere" idea. They then had to
refine that idea into something work-
The students had to submit their
proposal to the contest organisers.
After approval, they had less than a
week to bring all the bits together,
working during lunchtimes and after
school. So all of their advance
research and planning was vital,
given the short construction time.
There were several challenges,
First of all, the experiment had to
m x 40mm---that's pretty small. The
weight limit was 50 grammes. So
they had to find miniature compo-
nents (not available in local hardware
stores!), do extensive research to
source and order the correct parts
online. They had to organise them-
selves and assign duties to each of
the 17 team members to do the whole
In the final week of assembly,
despite their earlier research, they
suddenly discovered they had to
Lessons from Cubes in Space
NorthGate students learn...
Cubes in Space is a global design contest in which
teams of secondary school students from around the
world (ages 11 to 14) compete by developing unique sci-
ence experiments for launch into the upper atmosphere. It
is a partnership between Rubik Learning Initiative, the
Canadian firm idoodlesoftware inc, the Colorado Space
Grant Consortium's RockSat-C programme, and is sup-
ported by the Sounding Rocket Program Office at Nasa's
Wallops Flight Facility.
The experiment is carried up 1,500 km into the atmos-
phere in the rocket, and spends about five minutes there,
before returning to earth.
Deadline for the last contest was April 28; the winner,
NorthGate College in St Augustine, was announced on
May 2, and their cube experiment was flown into the
upper atmosphere on June 26. The students recently re-
ceived prizes for their efforts in a ceremony at the Cana-
dian High Commissioner's home on September 26.
The 2015 global Cubes in Space contest is now open.
For more info, see: www.cubesinspace.com and
For the NorthGate five-minute video on the project, see
WHAT IS CUBES IN SPACE?
Continues on Page B7
From left, Conrad Taitt, Ethan
Joel, Jenae Edwards, Brian
Ripoll, Zachary Joel, Shanade
Ali, Brandon Wooding and
PHOTOS: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
The cube experiment designed by 17 NorthGate College students. Its aim
was to test whether there is an electrical charge in the ionosphere.
Guiria tragedy---Page B5
questions answered! ---Page B6
Links Archive October 4th 2014 October 6th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page