In mid-December 2021, two Raspberry Pi computers were sent into space as part of the Astro Pi project, which is giving hundreds of school children the chance to run their own computer programs in space in 2022. The project is run in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK charity with the aim of engaging young people across the globe in computing and digital technology.
This ground-breaking scheme has been designed to encourage young people to be more enthusiastic about STEM subjects in order to solve the tech skill shortage which could become a crisis if more young people don’t enter the sector soon. In addition, raising awareness of STEM subjects could also contribute to closing the gender gap the sector has faced for many years.
The project offers two “missions” for children to carry out. “Mission Space Lab” will allow teams of young people to design and program a scientific experiment, which will be conducted on the International Space Station.
“Mission Zero” will enable young people to create a basic program designed to take humidity reading onboard the International Space Station. They will also be able to communicate with astronauts via the program for just 30 seconds, in order to share the reading.
Children must be under the age of 19 to participate and have a teacher or mentor supervise them during the experiments.
Why The Astro Pi Project Was Launched
The project is aiming to encourage more young people to take an interest in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) subjects. In today’s modern world STEM is more important than ever, so it’s crucial to ensure young people are inspired to pursue a career in the STEM sector.
Encouraging interest in technology in young people is believed to help tackle the tech skill shortage in the UK, which is becoming a growing concern. A study conducted by WorldSkills UK, the Learning & Work Institute and Enginuity revealed the number of students studying IT subjects at GCSE has dropped by 40% since 2015.
The Astro Pi project is also aiming to address the gender gap in STEM and invite more young girls to set their sights on a career in this field, which has long been dominated by men.
The Gender Gap In STEM
One area of concern surrounding the STEM sector in the UK is the lack of gender diversity. While there have recently been increases in both the number of women applying for IT degrees and engineering courses, the STEM sector is still predominantly made up of men.
117,295 men applied for computer science courses in 2021, while only 24,020 women put themselves forward. In engineering, the number of female applicants continues to rise, however, there’s still a notable gap between genders, with 125,320 men applying in 2021 compared to 29,650 women.