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Pupil’s Pi-oneering hobby inspires new club

November 8th, 2016

One boy’s high-flying hobby, which combines computing and physics to collect pictures of Earth from space, has now inspired his schoolmates to have a go themselves.

Sam, a pupil at Monmouth School, has formed the High Altitude Balloon (HAB) Club to share the skills he’s learnt with more than 40 of his peers.

Over the past few months, the 17-year-old has used money from an engineering scholarship to send three huge balloons up to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere carrying a GPS tracker, tiny Raspberry Pi computer, camera and radios within their payloads.

Sam gave a speech about his fascinating achievements to the whole school in assembly recently, during which he announced he was setting up the club.

“The satisfaction I got from my own ballooning projects and the enormous usefulness of the skills gained through doing it motivated me to start the club,” Sam said.

“I wanted to share these skills and the enjoyment of the hobby with others.

“The members will be soldering a circuit from scratch which will be then fused onto a Raspberry Pi; the circuit has the radio and GPS on it.

“Once attached to the Pi, this allows them to start programming and controlling the radio and reading from the GPS.

“As I did for my first flight, they will write code which operates the radio and GPS, transmitting its location. This will then be rigorously tested and club members will then get to fly their payloads attached to balloons and chase them down on that day. We are looking at reserving a Friday in January for this.”

HABS Club has united boys who may otherwise have never worked together or become friends.

Sam added: “It’s very exciting. It has been really fun seeing everyone else’s circuits come together. We’ve got students from Form I up to VI.2 and they are all getting the hang of it!

“It feels great to share my interests. I’ve enjoyed having friends come to help out on my previous flights and now it’s fun to give them the tools to do it themselves.”

HABS Club will teach pupils about wireless communications, soldering, physics which they wouldn’t usually learn until AS level, and advanced programming.

Sam continued: “The goal of the club is to develop skills – many students in the group will be applying to study STEM subjects in the coming years and this will be an excellent project for them to talk about, as well as enriching them and making them more appealing candidates.

“The club will also help widen people’s horizons. I hope to inspire some students to take this away and perhaps make it their hobby as it is mine!”

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