Our students launch a project into space to test Einstein’s theory of relativity

Irene, Maxime, Ángela and Carlos, Year 13 students (2nd Baccalaureate) have been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to carry out their research project on the International Space Station. Their project was chosen from all those submitted by young people from ESA member states, plus Slovenia, Canada, Latvia and Malta.

The students, encouraged by their physics teacher Shelley Russell, took part in the European Astro Pi Challenge organised by the European Space Agency, which offers young people the chance to carry out scientific research in space.

“We wanted to prove that Einstein’s theory of relativity holds true. We based our idea on simultaneously placing two counters, one here and one on Earth, and seeing how much each of them has counted in three hours on Earth,” says 17-year-old Irene Encina, one of the students who took part. After sending the proposal to the European Space Agency and passing it to the second phase, the Agency sent them a Raspberry Pi, the machine on which they had to programme their project.

Maxime Larguet, 19, was in charge of creating the programme using the Python programming language. “Participating in this project has been a continuous challenge that has made me do a lot of research and learn a lot. Also, the thought that the programme could end up in space was a great motivation”.

The students had to adapt their initial idea as they worked on the project. “We have learned that you have to be very creative when looking for solutions. Our main challenge has been to find a way for both counters to stop simultaneously after three hours on the ground. In the beginning, we thought we could do this by calculating the position where the International Space Station would be after three hours, but we discovered that on the Station the position was measured by a clock on the station itself; we didn’t originally think it was measured using any time factor. We finally had to redo the calculations using the gyroscope,” adds Ángela Herreros de Tejada, 17.

In April, the International Space Station will deploy the programme in space. The pupils will receive the data collected during the experiment in May when they will have to analyse it and send the final report to the European Space Agency.

At International School Andalucía we encourage pupils to participate in projects in which they can develop skills that go beyond the purely academic. Carlos Raya (17 years old) adds that “participating in this type of project has helped me to develop critical thinking, to research for solutions, to communicate my ideas better and to work as part of a team”. In addition, as a member of the International Schools Partnership group, students have the opportunity to participate in numerous international activities.

About the Astro Pi Challenge

The European Astro Pi Challenge offers young people the amazing opportunity to conduct scientific research in space. The challenge is to design and programme an experiment to run on an Astro Pi computer. The best experiments will be deployed to the ISS (International Space Station) to receive data and analyse the results of the experiment.

The European Pi Challenge Mission Space Lab is open to young people under the age of 19 from ESA Member States, or from Slovenia, Canada, Latvia or Malta. Teams must be supervised by a teacher or mentor, who will present their programmes.