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Earth Day links learners to ISS ExoLab experiment

For 50 years, people across the world have celebrated Earth Day on 22 April, promoting the importance of environmental awareness and our role in protecting the planet.

Through the innovative, global ExoLab programme which currently connects more than 300 South African learners from six schools to the international ExoLab community, I-Innovate and sponsor, Tata Consulting Services South Africa (TCS), hosted a unique 2021 Earth Day event. Students engaged in the ExoLab programme gathered online and in-person at Saldanha Airfield to launch two high pressure balloons for a scientific experiment that allowed them to utilise the latest technologies used in data analysis and collection, payload launching and weight management, as well as remote sensing and tracking.

The ExoLab programme connects learners in classrooms around the world to scientists conducting innovative experiments on the International Space Station (ISS), investigating solutions to real-world problems. The elements of Earth Day’s balloon launch go hand-in-hand with students’ global ExoLab experiment on the ISS to deepen their understanding of a range of maths, science and tech concepts as well as critical 21st century skills.

“This was an exciting opportunity for our learners to commemorate Earth Day in a meaningful way and have real, hands-on experiences, navigating scientific enquiry and problem-solving with local experts,” says I-Innovate CEO, Trisha Crookes.

“Two InterMet high pressure balloons were launched, each carrying a Styrofoam payload that houses the data collection and sensing devices. The average balloon flight takes approximately two hours and can ascend to an altitude of 30 000 m above sea level. At its peak, the balloon bursts, and the payload box falls back to Earth where students have been tracking the flight in real-time. “Learners and mentors recover the payload and use the data analysis for real world problem-solving and innovation opportunities.”

This collaborative Earth Day event was made possible through partnerships with the Sakhikamva Foundation and Astrofica.

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