A group of 14 high school girls from Cape Town who began a project to launch Africa’s first private satellite into space, have just completed a bootcamp with space experts to prepare them for the second and final phase of the project – the launch.

The project was kicked off last year by The Meta Economic Development Organisation (MEDO), in partnership with the Morehead State University in Kentucky, US, when it held a robotics hackathon in the Mother City at its Women in STEM program in June, which is aimed at developing skills among young girls from grades 10 to 12.

Learners design the payload

MEDO had purchased the satellite (MEDOsat1) with the goal of having the learners design its payload. South Africa is the first and only country outside the US that has received the go ahead from the Morehead Space Science Centre to run the programme against competing countries in South America and Europe.

The recently wrapped up week-long SpaceTrek bootcamp equipped the MEDOsat1 girls with knowledge on telecommunications, satellite construction, calibration, and data analysis.

 SpacePrep

Alongside the private satellite project, MEDO has been holding four-hour SpacePrep workshops on Saturdays around various high schools in the Cape Town area where learners are taught the basics of electro-mechanics by building a mini robot, or Jiggybot, from scratch. The workshops have reached 120 girls so far and aim to reach 600 each year.

MEDOsat1 will be launched in the second quarter of 2016 from the Mojave Desert in the USA.

Once launched, all learners who have participated in the various programmes, will be able to participate in a programme where they will be able to communicate with the satellite and experiment with communication and data-gathering while it is in orbit.

One launch per year

MEDO’s Women in STEM programme will run for the next four years with a satellite launch planned each year.

“This South African Women in STEM programme aims to make a sustainable, measurable impact in Africa and understands that South Africa’s future depends highly on people with STEM-focused careers,” Judi Sandrock, CEO of MEDO said in a statement.

“Historically, people were excluded from learning subjects such as Maths and Science, so there is a legacy with some parents of not necessarily encouraging the youth to pursue careers in these fields. This is where we believe we can make an impact in assisting parents in creating this inspiration in our children and the desire to pursue careers in STEM,” Sandrock concluded.

[Image – MEDO]