Space Technology Programme News 

Programme News Releases

Congratulations to Sutton High’s 2024 Space Tech Diploma Candidates!

15 May 2024

Many congratulations to Sutton High School’s Space Technology Diploma candidates, Year 12 students Alex P, Alicia O, Eliza G, Bethany W, and Year 11 students Parissa A, Hayley L, and Juliette S, who have defended their programming portfolios and been granted their 2024 diploma credentials this term. GDST-wide diploma candidates travelled to Cranfield University last Friday to take part in the GDST Space Technology Programme end-of-year student conference at the university’s CMRI Gallery, co-hosted by the university’s CranSEDs (Cranfield Exploration and Development of Space) Team. Students were provided with an extraordinary opportunity on the day, to beta-test a new NASA MND student software tool interface for retrieving satellite data sets for machine learning AI processing, during a task assisted by Sutton High Space Tech Alumni Mentors Farah R and Priya C. In the afternoon, students were treated to additional industry talks on the themes of software development in Earth science and robotics, model rocket optimisation, and spacecraft orientation.

We extend our sincerest gratitude to the virtual panel of space industry professionals, to whom our GDST students presented their practical viva assessment efforts that day: Elizabeth Joyner (NASA Earth Science Data Systems), Angela Rizzi, Desiray Wilson, and Ashlee Autore (My NASA Data), Dr. Kevin Czajkowski (GLOBE Mission Earth), Dr. Brad Hegyi (NASA POWER), Lauren Childs-Gleason (NASA DRCS), Kenton Ross (NASA DEVELOP), and Samuel Nascimento de Melo Santos (RocketPy), as well as guest speakers Gilbert Tang (Cranfield University), Slesa Adhikari (NASA IMPACT), Guilherme Fernandes Alves (RocketPy), Syed Shane Raza Abidi (Cranfield CranSEDS), and Dr. Bill Crofts (Warwick University WUSAT).

The conference event also provided a valuable opportunity for our Sutton High Royal Society STEM Partnership student team to showcase their 2024 airborne imager extension project. This project involves integrating the team’s recent high-altitude balloon and model rocket imager payload (automated remote camera) with a solar-powered UAV drone aircraft. Design and optimisation of the aircraft have been achieved this year using Python GPkit, an engineering software tool first created at MIT by Dr. Warren Hoburg, now a NASA astronaut. GPkit has been introduced as a new programming curriculum component on the GDST Space Technology Diploma, following collaborative efforts to explore coded methods for calculating sustained flight and powering of the small aircraft build, led by our school’s Royal Society STEM industry engineering partners Syed Shane Raza Abidi and Muhammad Haad Shaikh from Cranfield University. Our collaborative extension project is set to be presented at the 2024 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition Young Researcher Zone this July.

What is the A level extension Space Technology Diploma?

The GDST Space Technology Diploma is an advanced, A Level computer science curriculum extension offering for GDST school students with GCSE Yr 11 Computer Science Python Programming ability (or equivalent). Further information is available from the Sutton High School Computer Science department, and the programme will also be promoted at the school’s Open Evening event this June.

What do students study on the Space Technology Diploma?

A notable requirement of the GDST Space Technology Diploma is each individual student’s Python programming portfolio. The student portfolio evidences their practical work delivered during the course of the year and is evaluated by a guest panel, in conjunction with a live practical task and viva assessment. The guest panel is made up of space industry professionals, who at different stages during the year have typically delivered resources or online presentations to the diploma cohort. The portfolio document also aims to double as an interview tool, presenting skills developed during the scope of the programme, and containing samples of tutorial codes, visualisations and data interpretive explanations by the student.

What do Space Technology Diploma portfolio tasks entail?

Prescribed portfolio tasks cover project briefs such as remote data collection and transmission, predictive processing and visualisation of remote data, physical computing sensor robotics, computer vision, reduced deep space 2D array image and telemetry generation, and airborne device design simulations. Students opting for the distinction level certificate also have the opportunity to explore extended programming tasks using advanced software tools.

Supporting guest speakers participating in lectures to date have visited from institutions such as Warwick University Satellite Programme and NASA Langley Research Center, and have addressed topics such as spacecraft orientation, reaction wheels and Nadir sensing for orbiting satellites, to name a few.

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Space Technology Diploma Aerospace Engineering Day at Cranfield University

18 March 2024

Last week, Sutton High School’s GDST Space Technology Diploma students travelled to Cranfield University to attend a carefully planned industry experiential learning day hosted by the CranSEDS (Cranfield Students for the Exploration and Development of Space), led by CranSEDS engineers Syed Shane Raza Abidi, Muhammad Haad Shaikh, and Sam Mahoney.

Following the successful first stage of their 2023 Royal Society STEM partnership project focused on computational solutions for remote airborne data collection, 2024 has brought Sutton High School a new partnership opportunity with Cranfield University, to extend provisions of their existing student-generated airborne payload (onboard sensor and camera instruments). Furthering its development from surviving the atmospheric heights of high-altitude balloon deployment and velocities of rocket thrust, new ventures will tailor their imager payload toward more complex integration with a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) drone aircraft. Newly built by the postgraduate engineering students at Cranfield University, the drone is currently being tested to embrace impacts of sustained windspeed ahead of its next stages of solar powering and automated aerial navigation.

During recent after-school diploma sessions, Sutton High Space Tech students have engaged in first experimental tutorials using a new Python software innovation ‘GPkit’, an open-source software initially created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by Dr. Warren Hoburg, now a NASA astronaut. The software has a proven track record, having been utilised in prominent projects such as the Virgin Hyperloop. Our students have been offered the rare and exceptional opportunity to investigate using ‘Geometric Programming Technique’ via the GPkit software package, to model components of the design, operation, and integrated imager payload for the newly-built UAV.

In conjunction with their visit, the students were fortunate to have the additional opportunity to visit the CranSEDS’ Space Lab and Engine Area, as well as the university’s Indoor Flight Lab, Aerospace Integration Research Centre (AIRC), and Center for Robotics and Assembly. Rishi Sunak, UK Prime Minister, recently visited the university at the start of the academic year, to inspect the university’s close link to infrastructure, collaborative projects with Rolls-Royce and Airbus, and their leading work in robotics and automation taking place in these very labs.

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Well done to our 2024 Royal Society STEM Partnership Project team!

8 March 2024

On Wednesday, six Sutton High School students travelled to St James’s, London to participate in The Royal Society’s 2024 Student Conference. Four of the students, Kiyara W (Year 13), Sophie S (Year 13), Farah R (Year 12) and Priya C (Year 12) have completed the GDST Space Technology Diploma in past years and are now serving as student mentors for GDST-wide events for the programme. The other two students, Eliza G (Year12) and Juliette S (Year 11) are currently part-way through this year’s diploma course. The girls and Ms Buttigieg have been working extremely hard throughout the year to complete their Sutton High School STEM Partnership project, ‘Can Image and Sensor Data be Collected from Remote Airborne Devices, for Ground-Based Processing?‘, partnering with Launch Access Ltd, Cambridge University Space Flight and NASA Earth Science Data Systems. As a team, the girls presented their project formally to Royal Society Fellows, Mrs Dawson (who was also very proud to attend!) and several other participating UK-wide 2023 STEM grant recipient schools, who had travelled into London for the showcase conference that day.

In recognition of all their hard work, the girls relished in the superb opportunities given to them during the conference, to be professionally coached in live scientific project presenting and to meet and interact with other students showcasing their project work on a variety of other different advanced-level science experiments. They also indulged in a special programme of additional scientific presentations prepared by Royal Society fellows, as well as a delicious formal lunch in the exquisite Royal Society surroundings – a rich scientific learning environment dating back to the 1600s!

Very well done to our 2024 Royal Society STEM Partnership Project team at Sutton High School!

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Sutton High Student Mentors take the lead at GDST Space Tech Sensor Computing Workshop

9 February 2024

Last week, students pursuing the GDST’s flagship Space Technology Diploma programme hosted by Sutton High School, were offered the hands-on opportunity to explore coding challenges using Raspberry Pi computer board sensors and Pi mini cameras to collect local environmental data for AI computer vision and predictive regression processing. 40 sixth-formers and 11 teachers from cross-Trust GDST schools travelled into central London to engage in the experiential learning event at GDST Trust Office, which formed a part of their annual diploma assessment, in conjunction with weekly diploma online lectures and tutorials. The proactive event also provided an excellent opportunity for GDST sixth-form students and teachers to meet and collaborate in person, following progressive online preparation tasks in the lead up to the event.

As past diploma students from the hosting school, Farah Rizwan and Priya Chaudhuri from Sutton High School did the GDST proud as interactive student mentors, supporting GDST diploma candidate students as they participated in the day’s physical computing and data analysis activities, whilst further reinforcing their own coding skills. The day’s event successfully served to prep the students for their upcoming end-of-programme student conference in May, which will involve group practical task assessments and coding portfolio viva voce presentations before an industry panel.

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Education Today- 'Reaching for the Stars'

July-August 2023

In this month’s ever-popular View from the Classroom feature we are delighted to hear from Nicola Jane Buttigieg, Head of Computer Science, Sutton High School Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) & GDST Space Technology Programme Lead, who tells us about the school’s Computer science curriculum and the Trust-wide Space Technology A-level extension program.

Tell us about your schools 

Sutton High School, a member school of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), offers an all-through education from ages 3-18, designed for and dedicated to the development and empowerment of successful, happy, confident, and adventurous young women. The school and its staff are passionate about girls feeling free to make informed and unconstrained decisions in a safe and inspiring environment. The school is non-denominational and has increased its capacity in recent years. It currently has 850 day students on role, with a typical class size reaching 22 students in the senior school, and six students in the Sixth Form. The school’s values of courage, truth and joy are at the heart of everything the school does, encouraging the girls to have selfbelief and to find joy in learning. Entrance procedure to the school is by interview and test, and the GDST Trust runs an empowering programme of meanstested bursaries. What is the current uptake of Computer Science at Sutton High School and what specification do you teach? We deliver the OCR GCSE and OCR A-level Computer Science specifications at Sutton High School. When I arrived at the school mid-pandemic during September 2020, there were no A-level computer science students on roll. I inherited five Year 11 students studying for the GCSE. The next year I saw seven GCSE students through the exam and this year it has grown to eleven. Next year I will have twenty students coming through the OCR GCSE spec. My first A-level student has started in Year 12 this year, and next year I have six students enrolled to commence the OCR A level spec. 

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Sutton High Students Launch Royal Society Research Rocket

9 June 2023

Over the weekend, Sutton High Girls participating on the GDST Space Technology Programme took part in Stage Two of their Royal Society Partnership Grant project, a research rocketry launch of their computer-automated environmental sensor payload in Elsworth, Cambridgeshire. Guided by STEM partner Ben Jarvis of Launch Access Ltd., the students engaged in hands-on activity and experiential learning around the topics of flight optimisation to maximise on apogee (the rocket’s highest reached altitude) as well as the supporting aspects of research rocket rail buttons and rail towers and also ensuring tail fins are left unbent, so not to affect trajectory path. 

Following Stage One preparations of an automated air quality sensor and imager (airborne camera filming a downward mirror reflection) for their payload at the Cambridge University School of Engineering last month, the students were delighted to see their onboard instruments reach an altitude of 2167ft, at 274 mph. The students left the launch site eager to explore their locally-collected data with a comprehensive program analysis, ahead of what they hope will become the next Stage 3 of their project, to visualise and process the payload's logged data readings via professional cloud-based machine learning tools. This would be in an attempt to manipulate the data, so to match it with satellite readings from the same area for up to two decades earlier.

Ahead of our GDST Space Technology student conference to be held at AWS London Headquarters this week, our department connected with NASA IMPACT, an initiative that specialises in prototyping latest technologies to support new science and applications from Earth Observation data. The Royal Society Partnership Project has brought with it the rare opportunity for our students to collect local airborne imagery and sensor data in locations that may also be searched by the My NASA Data (MND) Earth System Data Explorer tool, an upskilling asset of NASA GLOBE Mission Earth.  

As a natural progression from the student-friendly MND platform, NASA Earth Science Data Systems' vast number of leveraging tools allow students ready-access to satellite data, for use toward investigation of Earth Systems. These are natural systems found around the Earth, its atmosphere and its environments.  

Upon learning how to use the more advanced NASA ESDS tools, a new avenue for computer science students with the right motivation and skillsets, could be to design and develop software tools to correlate local data readings with comparable satellite data, using innovative new approaches.

Iksha Gurung and Muthukumaran Ramasubramanian, working in the area of machine learning with Dr Manil Maskey at NASA IMPACT, have developed a variety of such tools. One example of this is ‘Similarity Search’, a facility able to rapidly compile image collections of everything from dust storms to coral reefs. It allows users to expedite discovery of relevant satellite images within an archive, by using a single sample image for comparison. 

NASA IMPACT, being on the leading edge for datasets and data systems, implement their tools from cloud-native applications, that are novel in their ability to scour enormous Earth science datasets. This has proven a very relevant area of interest for our students on the GDST Space Technology Programme this term, following introductory use of their newly-constructed AWS student cloud facility. Read more about NASA IMPACT's initiative here: 

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The Cambridge University Space Flight Team Hosts Sutton High Students

24 May 2023

Nicola Buttigieg, Head of Computer Science at Sutton High School, describes the highlights of a recent visit to Cambridge University’s School of Engineering as guests of the Cambridge University Flight Team  (CUSF). 

A select group of Sutton High Computer Science students visited Cambridge University’s School of Engineering at the weekend to begin the space technology field experience component of Sutton High’s 2023 Royal Society STEM Partnership Grant project.

Students participating in the GDST Space Technology Diploma programme took part in a variety of valuable skill-building activities led by the Cambridge University Space flight team and coordinated by CUSF’s field projects manager William Yu, and CUSF President, Jamie Russell. 

The main thrust of the CUSF-mentored activities focused on computer science automation in the context of remote data collection for an upcoming CUSF high-altitude balloon (HAB) flight test. 

Tutorials included practical operation programming skills for airborne imager and sensor robotics (in layman’s terms a flying camera or a sensor for detecting remote particles), together with automation of their data collection and cloud-based processing.  Around this subject students were prompted to consider choices for remote data transmission technique, factors impacting the airborne transmission pipeline, selection of predictive machine learning models according to outcome results comparison, and tackling conditions that airborne computer payloads may endure during flight, including restriction of computational power during remote collection. 

Some of the tasks were specifically designed to build on a series of prior-attended GDST diploma-based computing tutorials which meant that our students were well versed in how to understand both advanced-level snapshot lectures and coder upskilling task sets provided by CUSF subject matter experts.  Our students were already familiar with Pi computer device hardware sensor, camera and radio transmission peripherals, AWS cloud-deployed machine learning model data ingestion and introductory data visualisations using a hobby rocket science simulation library.  

Contributing towards their first introductory, industry-upskilling initiative were CUSF undergraduate student specialists Elisabeth Rakozy, who discussed mechanisms for rocket propulsion, Chris Li, on avionics control engineering and Sam Ross on coded formulas to generate heat transfer visualisation maps. 

As part of their experience the students took part in a Q & A which became a lively technical discussion covering topics such as industrial-scale transmission via flat patch antenna propagation, avionics PID loop control engineering and use of quadratic models for running commercial standard regression chart maps. 

The CUSF Aquila test rocket was showcased to students to provide them with an insight into the iterative design process and latest technical developments.  The Aquila Rocket is currently being optimised to reach an altitude of 3km and is set to act as a testing platform for their much larger rocket, Griffin, set to run a self-designed pressure-fed motor (known as White Giant) and will aim to reach 150km, exceeding the student altitude record and verifiably breaching the Karman Line. 

In the context of the impending HAB flight experiment, the students were presented with a final taster opportunity to apply their newly learnt polynomial regression scientific formulas to original, industrial standard HAB data, so to predict workplace scenario pressure, temperature, altitude, and nitrogen dioxide reading correlations. More crucial investigations were also made toward accuracy of predictive models adhering to airborne-specific sensitivities of the data, not immediately evident to students within the scope of their usual, classroom-based exercise experiments. 

The students hope that they will also apply these new skills to raw data obtained from their upcoming Royal Society-funded rocketry launch, taking place in June 2023, with the hope of attempting data normalisation in line with historical NASA Earth satellite data going back 20 years. 

Carried out as a partnership between Sutton High School and Cambridge University Space Flight, the upcoming Royal Society STEM Partnership-funded HAB and research rocketry launches will be the first in a line of experiment preparations accommodating a trial, scaffolded computer science project learning approach.

The approach seeks to employ the Society’s scientific methodology process in line with the existing routine of the USA-based NASA DEVELOP internship model for experiential learning in the industry field. Building on evidence obtained during student completion of tasks encompassing these experiments, the eventual learning model hopes to assist in reinforcing the bridge for space industry programming skills in students, from a firm grounding in senior high school A level, and to support steady upskilling progression through to second year pre-internship undergraduate level. Earlier this year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) also supported the initiative by investing in a Proof of Concept (POC) agreement with Sutton High, toward constructing an accessible, student cloud-based platform to facilitate the processing of remote test data transmitted on demand during their student experiments-in-progress. 

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Royal Society recognises Sutton High with STEM Partnership Grant Award

27 April 2023

We are delighted to announce that Sutton High School GDST has been awarded a 2023 Royal Society STEM Partnership Grant, focusing on the target area of computer science for space technology. The Royal Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science. It has played a part in some of the most fundamental, significant, and life-changing discoveries in scientific history. 

Partnering with Cambridge University Space Flight, Launch Access Ltd, Amazon Web Services (AWS), NASA DEVELOP and NASA Earth Science Data Systems, the focus project to be funded by the grant this summer term involves an investigation into aerial image and sensor data collection from remote airborne devices, for cloud computing-based machine learning processing. In the case of imagery, the goal is to carry out image recognition in aerial images via computer vision algorithms, and in the case of air quality sensor data, the goal is to automate predicative regressions, so to draw environmental conclusions following its correlation with existing NASA Earth satellite data covering the same local areas over the last few decades. 

During the project, two progressive field experiments will be carried out by Sutton High senior computer science students participating in the GDST Space Technology Diploma Programme, which will involve their building computerised data collection payloads for deployment by both high-altitude balloon (HAB) and research rocket (for parachute descent), to collect local UK aerial image and sensor data readings.

The field projects will follow a version of the NASA DEVELOP experiential internship model, which will be adapted by lead teaching staff at Sutton High School GDST and Cambridge University Space Flight, to accommodate a scaffolded computer science project learning approach by participating students. 

The adapted learning model will be formulated in line with the Royal Society's scientific methodology process, and its resulting project evaluation report is hoped to formalise a record of the first-test practical attempt of the learning model. Building on evidence obtained during student completion of tasks during and encompassing the field trips involved, the evaluation is anticipated to report back on the varying style computer science automation programs coded by the students, including imager and sensor airborne robotic operations and their data collection, transmission and cleaning, elements of remote edge computing of the data whilst still airborne, and finally, processing and analysis of the ground received data using a number of synchronised AWS cloud interface tools, for informative output predictions useful to Earth and space science industry users.

Earlier in the year, AWS invested in constructing an accessible, student cloud-based platform via a Proof of Concept (POC) agreement with Sutton High, in preparation for the school's Royal Society application. The resulting POC platform will be used to facilitate computing logistics for the upcoming student-focused remote sensing field projects.

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Sutton girls take the lead in GDST space tech mentorship

26 April 2023

Earlier this week, students pursuing this year's Sutton High hosted GDST Space Technology Diploma were invited to Trust Office in central London to participate in a physical computing workshop day. The day's activities formed part of their diploma experiential learning in conjunction with weekly remote lectures and tutorials throughout the year. Participating students were offered the hands-on opportunity to realise Raspberry Pi computing applications requiring hardware sensor and camera peripherals, to collect local environmental data for AI processing.

As students from the hosting school, Priya Chaudhuri and Farah Rizwan from Sutton High were the first to demonstrate exemplar distinction level viva voce-style assessments for the cohort. This was a task whereby students opting for the higher level diploma certificate prepare to pitch an idea for an original computer-automated software that addresses, or otherwise creates a solution for aspects covered in additional NASA EPDC Digital Badge learning content studied alongside their yearly diploma coding projects. Further GDST candidate students opting for the distinction level certificate are due present their software pitches at the upcoming GDST Space Technology Diploma student conference taking place in central London this June.

Along with fellow GDST students from Brighton, Nottingham, Streatham and Clapham, Putney, Sheffield, Norwich and Shrewsbury, the students were led by last year's Sutton High programme experts, Kiyara Wijertane and Sophie Streater, who did the GDST proud as acting student mentors on the day, further reinforcing their coding skills honed during last year's programme led by Space Technology programme leader Ms Buttigieg.  

Supporting diploma candidate pupils from across the Trust during the day's activities, the two leading students moved from Pi station to Pi station, assisting struggling students with every kind of familiar bug without hesitation. Encountering the chance to meet each visiting GDST student in the process, this example of the teach-to-learn protégé effect method, whereby the student takes on the role of a teacher, was an exceptional example of how having to teach something to their peers offers the prospect to transition a student into a form of expert, whilst also improving their scientific communication skills with related key terms and concepts.

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It IS rocket science!

14 March 2023

It's official: The sky is NOT the limit for the girls at Sutton High School and it IS rocket science!

We are delighted to announce that our NASA EPDC trained Head of computer science, Ms Nicola Jane Buttigieg, is offering the opportunity to learn ‘rocket science’ as part of some of her computer science classes. 

Ms Buttigieg’s mission to teach rocket trajectory simulations, or more specifically, python coding for space technology, started back in lockdown when she began outreach training with the NASA STEM Educator Professional Development Collaborative from home.

Her training and subsequent space technology expertise caught the attention of her employer, Sutton High School, and the Girls Day School Trust  (GDST), who have since launched a first-of-its-kind Space Technology Diploma for their teachers.

She says: “Not only is this a fascinating opportunity for our girls, it will also hopefully encourage more girls to follow a career in STEM.  The European Space Agency has said it is aiming to employ women in 40%+ of STEM roles by 2025.  Our ability to offer the study of space technology is an excellent way of attracting more interest amongst our students to follow a STEM related career”.

Kevin Stannard, GDST Director of Innovation & Learning, comments, “The main aim of the GDST’s Space Technology Diploma has been to develop the skills that will enable students to consider such careers. The diploma aims to address the wastefully small number of young women contemplating STEM careers. Educationally too it is innovative in that it promotes problem-based learning, bringing space technology together with computer programming.”

Sutton High Head, Beth Dawson, adds, “We are so lucky to have Nicola’s expertise in space technology. We are committed to pushing the boundaries of education in all fields and remain true to our GDST motto of ‘where girls learn without limits.’  Testimony to this is Nicola’s expert knowledge and backing from organisations such as Amazon Web Services, NASA IMPACT, Cambridge University Space Flight (CUSF), and the University of Warwick Satellite Programme (WUSAT). This means we are at the vanguard of space technology education in schools.” 

While doing her NASA STEM course, Ms Buttigeig became interested in Python use for space and airborne technology, which led her to the Python package GPKit based at MIT (a tool that enables manipulation of models for optimising the design and build of exploratory devices).  It functions around the concept of 'Geometric Programming' with its ability to automate and execute formulas and calculations in seconds such as to maintain an airborne state.   Something that would take a human several days to achieve.

The ‘Geometric Programming’ moment boosted Ms Buttigieg to engage with other related Python programming tasks, such as to gather and analyse Earth observation data enabled by those devices - which attracted interest from NASA DEVELOP who reached out to offer suggested methods for teacher delivery, focusing on practical internship skill reinforcement.

At the same time, Ms Buttigieg began sharing her knowledge with her computer science students at Sutton High School, who took part in the NASA Mission to Mars Student Challenge, in anticipation of the automated landing of the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover.

She says, “Witnessing Perseverance's iconic 2021 automated EDL landing in real time online during the pandemic, turned out to be a life changing experience for me and my students!”.

The current AWS Proof of Concept (POC) student facility to be pioneered by Sutton High School is in line with a partnership with Cambridge University Space Flight (CUSF) and UK commercial space tech start-up Launch Access Ltd., for upcoming high-altitude balloon and research rocket launch experiments during this year's programme.

The experiments are to be based on the collaborative effort to deliver the first computer science-focused adaptation of the tried and tested NASA DEVELOP internship model here in the UK, integrating use of NASA Earth Science Data Systems satellite data leveraging tools. The adaptation effort will aim to build and reinforce practical internship coding skills for data processing, data transmission and sensor robotics at pre-university level, via a series of progressive, scaffolded project tasks.   

The GDST Space Technology Diploma

Equivalent to an undergraduate module, the GDST Space Technology Diploma programme has been designed to fill a gap; there is no specific degree that solely focuses on computer science disciplines relevant to Space Science. The areas studied encompass earth observation, stratospheric data analysis, computer vision and airborne, deep space and inter-planetary robotic sensor automation.                                                              

GDST Computer Science teachers delivering the programme across the country form part of a core team, who receive CPD training prior to delivery of the programme's scaffolded project-based curriculum. As computer science is an ever-developing subject, and as graduates in the industry less commonly choose education as a direct career path, trained teachers in the more specific (and quickly expanding) area of programming for space technology are hard to come by.                                                                                                                                   

Further Details

Space agencies worldwide recognise attracting more women is vital, with The European Space Agency aiming to employ women in 40%+ of STEM roles by 2025.

Following discussions with the UK Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, the UK Space Agency Skills Lead, ESERO-UK and ESA Academy, a scaffolded, practical project-based experiment series has resulted in formulating the current diploma curriculum scheme. 

NASA Earth Science Data Systems, NASA DEVELOP, Cambridge University Space Flight (CUSF), the University of Warwick Satellite Programme (WUSAT) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have acted as collaborators on this year's diploma delivery effort across ten UK GDST schools.

In the lead up to this academic year (2022/23), a Programming Skills for Space Technology Student Survey was held by the GDST during the UKSEDS Student Space Conference at King’s College London, to discover that of the full survey pool, 62% of students reported they did not have the opportunity to learn coding skills during high school secondary education years, the top language of interest for desired student coding ability was Python at 72%, and that 49% of students reported they had no knowledge of external coding skill-building provisions, nor could pursue anything offered due to time clashes and other restrictions, including the factor of expensive costing.

The first pilot of the Space Technology programme ran at Sutton High School in 2021, following training Ms Buttigieg received from the NASA STEM Engagement & Educator Professional Development Collaborative (NASA EPDC) based at Texas State University, toward their educator Digital Badges initiative. Additional collaborators on the pilot were NASA Globe Mission Earth, My NASA Data, and the Astronomy Technology Centre at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.

The first inter-school pilot (four GDST schools) in 2022 drew the additional collaboration of University of Hertfordshire and the inclusion of a central London joint-schools student conference with guest international panel. The current 2023 multi-school pilot (ten participating GDST schools) anticipates a residential conference and has attracted the additional collaboration of Warwick University Satellite Programme, Cambridge University Space Flight, and Amazon Web Services.

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Amazon Web Services Trials Take Place

13 March 2023

Earlier in the month, our Senior Space Technology Diploma students took part in a first trial session using an AWS Proof of Concept student-platform, introducing them to hands-on remote image machine learning.

The platform has been sponsored by Amazon Web Services, to facilitate a trial practical skills-based learning model for space technology computer programming, in collaboration with the GDST Space Technology Diploma (hosted by Sutton High School), Cambridge University Space Flight and NASA Develop (NASA Langley Research Center).

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Sutton High Hosts WUSAT Concepts of Spacecraft Orientation Lecture

26 January 2023

Hosted by Sutton High School, the lecture was delivered as part of a series, alongside practical Python programming tasks for students during their computer science-focused diploma.

Prior to this, Dr Croft provided his insights to students for their upcoming skill-building project work by discussing his approach to discussing reaction wheels, Nadir sensing, magnetorquer satellite systems for attitude control, stabilisation and detumbling, as well as the aircraft principal axes rotations of pitch and yaw and roll.

In the coming weeks, students will attempt to produce programmed visualisations to investigate diversity of movement and inertia in different space environments. They hope to achieve this by measuring simulated device accelerometer and gyroscope readings over measured periods of time, in different physical states.

Brighton GDST Visits Sutton High for Pre-WUSAT Programming Workshop

12 December 2022

This term, Sutton High School kicked off its second year hosting the GDST Space Technology Diploma Programme with a motivational lecture on space technology careers. Presented by guest speaker Dr Bill Crofts, Director of Warwick University’s Satellite Programme (WUSAT), the presentation elaborated on an ongoing pursuit by WUSAT students based at the university’s School of Engineering, to deploy CubeSat satellites carrying payload instruments such as high-resolution cameras, light spectrometers and deployable antenna to receive location tag signals from the Earth’s surface. Dr Crofts also took the opportunity to elaborate on achievements of notable past female students at the university, who have successfully progressed into industry as a result of work on WUSAT projects designed and built to European Space Agency (ESA) standards.

Dr Crofts' presentation followed a proactive coding workshop in the Sutton High Computer Science Department, with visiting A level computer science students from GDST Brighton also participating on the diploma. The aspiring STEM career students spent the afternoon together discussing programming techniques for the beginnings of a Python language-based software application, and exploring coding infrastructure techniques such as instantiation, constructors, inheritance and polymorphism. The workshop was delivered in conjunction with lecture-tutorials based on a series of projects to be delivered on the GDST’s Space Technology Diploma this year, the first constituting a reduction of the MIRI Infrared Instrument, a component of the ISIM scientific instruments payload on the current James Webb Space Telescope.

Generating 2D array images from simulated light intensity data inputs, the reduced software simulation approach was first developed at Sutton High School during the GDST’s pilot diploma sessions, in collaboration with Dr Alistair Glasse (NASA MIRI Instrument Scientist) based at the Astronomy Technology Centre at The Royal Observatory Edinburgh. Sutton High hopes to continue its initiative to connect with other GDST schools for practical advanced coding workshops, focused on collaborative ‘Agile’ team software development methodology and aiming to reinforce group tertiary level internship-oriented coding skills.

Sutton High to Pioneer New NASA Develop Model with CUSF and AWS

12 December 2022

At the end of November, our 2022 A-Level Alumni of the GDST Space Technology Diploma programme, along with Sutton High’s newcomers to this year’s diploma, were treated with a visit to Sutton High’s Computer Science Department by Cambridge University Space Flight (CUSF) undergraduate crew members William Yu and Elizabeth Ho. During their visit, our Sutton students were guided in a new approach to expand on their skills in preparing Raspberry Pi computer environmental sensors for remote radio transmission capability.

Upon an ambitious invitation by CUSF to prepare automated optical imager, meteorological and air-quality sensors for mounting on their next high-altitude balloon (HAB) launch, the students were first offered an insightful and comprehensive talk by the crew members on their innovative, computer-aided rocketry design development targets for this year, and also elaborating on their current progress with automated airborne payload experiments.

Discussions during the session spanned from dynamic structures, aeroelasticity and avionics, to connectors for actuators, antenna connectors and asynchronous communication in embedded systems. In addition, the students were delivered a talk on UK space technology career prospects in the realm of computer science by another accompanying visitor, education outreach representative Shay Mehta from Amazon Web Services (AWS). Mr Mehta’s talk was welcomed following the recent approval of an exciting proof of concept (POC) remote data collection cloud-processing application, currently being tailored by AWS for the GDST.

The POC is to be pioneered by Sutton High School in line with their partnership with CUSF for the upcoming airborne HAB experiment, and to be based on the collaborative effort to deliver a computer science-focused adaptation of NASA Langley Research Center’s tried and tested NASA DEVELOP internship model, with a focus on incorporating NASA’s Engineering-Design-Process (EDP) for automation-programmed space technology applications. The adaptation effort, led by Ms Nicola Jane Buttigieg, Head of Computer Science at Sutton High School and GDST Space Technology Diploma Programme Lead, will aim to progressively build and reinforce robust, practical internship coding skills for data processing, data transmission and sensor robotics at pre-university level. 

NASA's GLOBE Mission Earth Connects with the International GLOBE Community

23 June 2022

NASA's GLOBE Mission Earth (GME) project extends its reach to GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) Program students all over the world. Recently, GME work has supported students in England, Malta, and Thailand.

On Friday, May 6th, students participating in the Girl's Day School Trust (GDST) Space Technology Programme from Sutton High School, Sheffield High School, and Oxford High School congregated at the GDST Office in Westminster, England for their end-of-year student conference (More information about the conference: The GDST Space Technology Programme bridges common foundation skills needed between the space sector, engineering, and computer science. The students presented their outcomes from exploring space science requirements and Python-based programming projects focusing on NASA Earth data correlation and analysis, physical motion sensor pattern classification, and remote environmental sensor and imager data collection for Artificial intelligence (AI) processing. A guest panel made up of space industry professionals, who delivered resources and online presentations to the group at different stages during the year, attended to offer feedback. The panel included Elizabeth Joyner of Earth Science Data Systems out of NASA Headquarters, Dr Bradley Hegyi and Angela Rizzi from the the My NASA Data program (NASA Langley Research Center), and Principal Investigator Dr. Kevin Czajkowski from the NASA GME team (University of Toledo). Dr. Czajkowski and John Moore served as mentors to the students participating in the GDST Space Technology Programme from November 2021 to April 2022, a connection made when teacher Ms. Nicola Buttigieg attended an online presentation about using My NASA Data ( given by Elizabeth Joyner (NASA Langley) in 2021. Ms. Buttigieg used NASA Earth Data via My NASA Data with Python in her coursework last school year with much success and was encouraged to build out her courses for consideration at a national level for a formal K-12 audience. Ms Buttigieg also received a teaching award from NASA for excellence in 21st Century teaching and learning in the fields of Earth Observation Data and Computer Sciences. Learn more about the GDST Space Technology Programme:

Additionally, on May 25th, 2022 at 5:00 a.m. EDT, Dr. Czajkowski presented virtually to students participating in the island state of Malta's 10th Annual Youth Summit on the GLOBE COOLING DOWN Students Investigation. As the leader of the Urban Heat Island Effect Surface Temperature Campaign for GLOBE, students were excited to have Dr. C’s feedback on their studies of urban heat island in different areas of Malta. Dr. C, in his closing remarks, encouraged the students to continue studying the impact of urban heat island in their local communities. The following five projects were presented by students: 

The number of GLOBE schools in Malta has expanded from nine to nineteen this year! The Nature Trust Foundation for Environmental Education in Malta has organized the annual Young People’s Summit for the past 16 years to prepare for the Annual Young people’s Eco Schools Parliament in June. Eco Schools is an international program bringing together over 20 million students worldwide. The Virtual summit was held with the support of the Maltese Ministry of Education, Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning, Ambient Malta, HSBC Malta Foundation, Transport Malta, and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Malta. Learn more about the GLOBE COOLING DOWN Students Investigation on their Facebook page:

NASA's GME project reach also extended to Thailand this year, as Dr. Mullica Jaroensutasinee, professor at the School of Science at Walailak University in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand connected with Dr. Czajkowski to arrange for Orranan Chuachart, an undergraduate Walailak University student, to study at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio this summer as part of their Research Experience for Undergraduates program. Olawale Oluwafemi, a Ph.D student at the University of Toledo, will serve as her mentor, and Orranan will spend 6 weeks on campus and at the Lake Erie Research Center, studying urban heat island using in-situ observations and remotely sensed images. Learn more about the University of Toledo's Research Experience for Undergraduates:

"I am looking forward to studying the urban heat island effect at the University of Toledo." ~ Orranan Chuachar

NASA's GLOBE Mission Earth project, led by the University of Toledo, is supported by NASA under cooperative agreement award number NNX16AC54A and is part of NASA's Science Activation Portfolio. Please visit to learn more.

The GLOBE COOLING DOWN Students Investigation Facebook Page:


Student Space Technology specialist speakers inspire at Avenue House

19 May 2022

Last Friday, Sophie and Kiyara, 2022 GDST Space Technology Programme Alumni from Sutton High School, were invited as guest Space Technology specialist speakers to present a segment on the James Webb Space Telescope during Avenue House Preparatory School's Science Week celebration assembly.

Following annual study on the GDST programme, hosted by Sutton High School, their segment additionally demonstrated to the students the workings of the telescope's MIRI infrared scientific instrument, via a specialised Python programming language-based reduction. Their presentation and Q & A afterwards offered the students valuable insight into senior secondary level computer programming, towards career preparations for today's real-life space sector, and the girls received praise for making tricky scientific concepts fun and accessible to the preparatory student audience moving into secondary years. They received positive feedback from the Headmaster of the school: 

"Thank you for organising such an intriguing presentation for Years 5 and 6. The children, and staff, were thoroughly enthralled by the project. It is amazing what your students are working on, and it provides our children with achievable aspirations not too far ahead in their education, and beyond.

Please provide Kiyara and Sophie with a huge well done and thank you from all at Avenue House. They presented very professionally, with amazing knowledge to back it up."

Conall Chivers, Headmaster - Avenue House School

Space Technology Programme Student Conference at GDST Trust Office 

13 May 2022

On Friday May 6th, students participating in the GDST Space Technology Programme from Sutton High School, Sheffield High School and Oxford High School congregated at GDST Trust Office in Westminster for their inaugural, end of year student conference. Following a year’s attendance to academic sessions, the students presented their outcomes from exploring space science requirements and Python-based programming projects focusing on NASA Earth data correlation and analysis, physical motion sensor pattern classification and remote environmental sensor and imager data collection for AI processing. A guest panel made up of space industry professionals, who at different stages during the year had delivered resources and online presentations to the group, attended to offer feedback on pre-completed projects submitted ahead of time by the students and also on additional work set by them to be completed during two activity sessions earlier that morning. On the panel was Elizabeth Joyner of Earth Science Data Systems out of NASA HQ, Dr Bradley Hegyi and Angela Rizzi of My NASA Data (NASA Langley Research Center), Dr Kevin Czajkowski of NASA GLOBE Mission Earth (University of Toledo) and Dr Jin Kang, Director of the US Naval Academy Small Satellite Program and co-developer at Maru Space Technology for the student A3Sat Initiative. The final, interactive conference panel session with students proved constructive towards further planning for the next year’s revised GDST Space Technology Programme curriculum. Suggestions were explored for onward collaborative efforts, toward finding algorithmic solutions around data collection inaccuracies due to fluctuating environmental conditions, and also research towards potential sensor device innovations to overcome environmental impacts on future planetary observation readings. Participating students Sophie and Kiyara from Sutton, Rina and Zahra from Sheffield, and Lottie, Bella, Tia and Hannah from Oxford, received certificates in a final presentation at the end of the conference.

Ms Buttigieg received a teaching award from NASA for excellence in 21st Century teaching and learning in the fields of Earth Observation, Data and Computer Sciences.

GDST Space Technology | Online Evening Event (USNA Small Satellites) 

9 March 2022

On the evening of March 1st, students participating in the GDST Space Technology Programme from Sutton High School, Oxford High School and Sheffield High School enjoyed an engaging seminar and virtual workspace tour by Dr Jin Kang, Director of the US Naval Academy Small Satellite Program, live from Maryland, USA. Dr Kang is also founder of the USA's Maru Space Technology, and co-developer of the USA Institute of Earth Observation's new 'CubeSat' satellite-inspired student initiative, the 'A3Sat'. Our GDST students were treated to an insightful careers talk covering both multiple facets of Dr Kang's own professional career, as well as developments in his department working on space devices for NASA, which encompass small satellite launches and high-altitude balloon payload test experiments. The students were also offered the opportunity to engage in discussion on the growing expectation of computer science skills in the booming commercial Space Technology sector, for which applicants with sufficient training are currently in great demand. Dr Kang delivered an interactive presentation looking at board system interiors of lunar payload sensor devices being prepared for missions to the moon, and the 'shake and bake' process of space payload rocket-vibrational analysis followed by thermal vacuum chamber testing. In addition, he elaborated on the various connections required to send space science data via radio signals back to earth. Students were walked through coding approaches used to develop computer applications for high-altitude balloon test calculation methods, known as 'balloon marching', used to anticipate accurate balloon launching up to 100K feet, and predicting travel route flow, balloon rupture and landing location. The students very much look forward to the upcoming task of programming their own reduced computer boards to operate sensors and imagers targeting earth observation data in their own local areas of the UK. 

GDST Space Technology Programme Seminar (NASA GLOBE) 

28 January 2022

On Tuesday, students participating in the GDST A Level Computer Science Space Technology Programme from Sutton High School, Oxford High School, Sheffield High School and Royal High School Bath had the opportunity to attend a seminar presented by guest speakers Dr Kevin Czajkowski and Andy Henry of NASA's GLOBE Mission Earth and AREN AEROKATS (Kites) and Rovers remote sensing project. The seminar took place following a proactive trip to the University of Hertfordshire School of Physics, Engineering and Computer Science the week prior. At the university, the group of students had been tutored in how to program machine learning classification of transmitted movement sensor data within local university surroundings, by the university's Senior lecturer, Dr Daniele Ravi, also a professional programmer for London's Queen Square Analytics. During a more involved discussion during the Tuesday seminar, regarding the use of kite payload sensors to collect local airborne data, the students were able to apply their new, first-hand classification programming knowledge toward the more complex topic of 'computer vision', a field of artificial intelligence that trains computers to interpret and understand the visual world via image data.  It is anticipated that the students may now work towards realising further practical program writing ventures, obtaining and processing airborne image data in their local environments, and enabling them to draw inferences and share discoveries toward earth observation and climate change from their various geographical locations.

GDST Space Technology Programme Trip (University of Hertfordshire) 

20 January 2022

On Monday, students participating in the GDST A Level Computer Science Space Technology Programme from Sutton High School, Oxford High School and Sheffield High School visited the University of Hertfordshire College Lane Campus to attend a series of special events taking place in the School of Physics, Engineering and Computer Science. Meeting for the first time in person, and following several months of online classes, each hands-on event was tailored for the girls in synchronisation with their extra-curricular programme of study, and targeting their wider understanding of external sensor data collection, classification and machine learning analysis, as well as forces of space flight. 

In the effort to explore new facets of curriculum content encompassing the newly developing, innovative area of Space Technology, the university's tertiary level specialists offered various sessions throughout the day. These sessions explored skills ranging from advanced use of portable, data-generating applications (one of which was designed and created by the workshop leader) able to measure gyroscope and acceleration sensor readings, to physical operation of varying flight simulator device models responding to driver-sensed movement. The day was made even more special by a visit from the Associate Dean and leader of Computer Science Programmes at the University, which has a rich history in both computer science and aeronautical engineering endeavours dating back to post-WW2 technical education on the grounds of the de Havilland Aircraft Company.  

Sutton High to see first students apply AI to MND NASA mission data 

11 June 2021

Sutton High School computer science students will be the first to apply AI machine learning algorithms to MND NASA mission data, during a multi-faceted space tech programme offered following cancellation of the 2021 GCSE examinations.

Nicknamed ‘Space Tech Fortnight’, plans for the programme began when the GCSE students signed up for NASA’s STEM Digital Badges programme, hosted by the NASA Educator Professional Development Collaborative (EPDC) in partnership with Texas State University. Following the February landing of the Mars Perseverance Rover, NASA EPDC novice Ms Nicola Buttigieg, Head of Computer Science at Sutton High School, had tailored a series of Python programming exercises to be taught in parallel with units from the digital badging curriculum, which offered perfect background insight toward up-to-date and topical, space technology-based problem-solving environments. Delivered concurrently with aspects of the students’ existing OCR GCSE Computer Science curriculum, Ms Buttigieg had equally developed the program in response to rapidly growing career prospects in the area of space tech, inspired by Elon Musk’s Space X and more imminently, the 2021 launch of the NASA–ESA–CSA James Webb Space Telescope to replace the famous Hubble. Michelle Berry, NASA STEM Education Specialist and administrator of the NASA Digital Badges program, encouraged Ms Buttigieg to involve asynchronous STEM learning for her students with a view to badge certification, whilst they could also experience exciting work NASA is doing as well as be provided with good preparation for pursuing future academic programs and career exploration in the space tech industry.

A few months on, Ms Buttigieg’s initiative at the greater-London based GDST school has expanded to include beginner A-level classes, supported by further contributions from Dr Alistair Glasse, James Webb Space Telescope MIRI Instrument Scientist at the Royal Observatory’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre, as well as Gregory Dubos, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory systems engineer currently serving as Mars 2020 Perseverance Surface Operations Systems Chair, and more prominently, Ms Elizabeth Joyner, Senior Education Specialist, and Dr Bradley Hegyi, Earth System Data Advisor at My NASA Data (MND), NASA Langley Research Center.

Whilst the impact of Dr Glasse has students studying simulated MIRI image visualisations and reassembling integer values inspired by 16-bit galaxy light-intensity pixel readings, the impact of Dr Dubos has them considering accessibility of BBC microbit sensors to simulate the concept of Mars Perseverance Rover’s MOXIE instrument generating oxygen on the red planet. As the next generation of explorers of the universe, Dr Dubos enforced to the students that everything they study and work on will prepare them to venture into space and preserve our planet, with no challenge unable to be faced when armed with newest available telemetry insights from Perseverance and its Mars flight-powered sibling, Ingenuity.

Exploring infrared telescope image arrays capable of revealing planetary magnetospheres, such as those of Jupiter and its moon IO scheduled for JWST investigation in June 2022, and the use of FPGA style logic gates within rover-instrument system sensor automation, are only two featured experiences for the computer science students. Their opportunity to query and download quantitative NASA mission data files from MND’s student-tailored Earth System Data Explorer tool will serve their additional efforts to purpose-design investigative beginner AI machine learning algorithms in Python. Following up on the department's inference-drawing machine learning activities, Jessica Taylor, Education and Public Outreach Lead for NASA Langley Research Center’s Science Directorate, expressed in addition that the work these students are doing to analyse and predict planetary effects using MND data will also assist them to better understand our Earth and build the skills needed to become data literate citizens of our world.