Senior Research Fellow Kevin Vinsen from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has been working with students from Dalkeith Primary School on an astronomy, coding and art project. The students first learned how a computer works in a series of computer science unplugged activities, as well as how to build a Piper computer using a Raspberry Pi microcontroller, and were introduced to the basics of the computer programming language Python. They are now recording and encrypting messages, including an audio and visual message, to send into space.
They planned for the messages to be sent locally in the universe, approximately four light years away. That way if it is received, decoded and a return message sent, these students will be university age. Negotiations are underway to see if the students'messages can be sent into space via transmitters. Alternatively, they will be broadcast through radio satellites.
The students are part of Dalkeith Primary School's STEM enrichment program and Tamara Doig, Deputy Principal, has been working with Kevin since 2015.
We constantly strive to create a learning environment that will inspire and increase students' interest in STEM fields. We want our students to become innovators and risk takers who create solutions for real world problems. The partnership with Kevin through the SMiS [now STEM Professionals in Schools] program is helping the students achieve this,' explains Tamara.
Kevin has run other hands-on activities with the school's students including a whole school science day run by the entire ICRAR Education Outreach team with water rocket launchers and high powered telescopes, a talk for senior students on Radio Astronomy and the Square Kilometre Array, analogue computing, building an actual computer and Python programming. He values his partnership with Dalkeith Primary School through STEM Professionals in Schools and is incredibly passionate about engaging students with science. He particularly loves how these students 'free-think' the science.
The sky is not the limit for this group of Dalkeith Primary School students who have set their sights on extraterrestrial life as part of this cutting-edge science project. We're sure they are excited about the possibility of receiving a response, as are we!