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Middlewich High School

Achievement for all

MIDDLEWICH MARS LANDER PROJECT

The Programming/Robotics Club's new project aims to take to the skies, get involved every Thursday!

This year we have launched as part of our Thursday night programming/robotics club a new project that brings together the Departments of ICT/Computer Science/PD and Science in a school version of the Mars Lander mission.  Our  task is to launch a weather satellite with two payloads, a python controlled Raspberry PI buggy that will be dropped from 50 feet (15 metres) and a camera that will go up to 20000 feet and take pictures from a high altitude.

Problems for us to solve include how we can protect the buggy in a 50 foot fall, how we can release the buggy at the right height, and how we can retrieve the camera after the weather balloon explodes (as it goes higher the pressure outside the balloon drops so eventually the pressure inside the balloon becomes so great that it will explode!)  Other issues include operating a camera at -25 degrees (the temperature at 20000 feet), and retrieving it in one piece from that altitude.

Solutions to date include use of a 12V electo-magnet to hold the buggy payload below the balloon, and the use of a 12V wireless remote controlled switch to turn off the magnet and release the payload at the correct height.  Tracking the balloon is easy with a GPS tracker, and equipping the balloon with a parachute means we have the means to land our camera with a good chance it will remain intact!

Our first 50 foot test of the balloon and the ability to drop a payload will be in the Autumn term and once successful we will migrate to a bigger balloon which can take a bigger payload for the full altitude launch.  Mr Priestley cannot wait to start dropping objects from a high height to see if they can survive the fall!  (memory foam and air bags are too suggestions but we are open to any other ideas).  The fall altitude launch will have to be logged with the CAA and we will advertise it in advance on the school website, facebook and twitter.

As a project it is proving to be very environmental friendly as everything except the weather balloon are reusable.

Any new recruits to our club are always welcome, just email Mr Underwood for details.