The Cuberider payload was designed and made in Australia, and used on the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the STEM education program for high school students. It was launched in December 2016 and is Australia?s first ever payload to the ISS.
Cuberider are a small Australian start-up, who were inspired by the declining interest of school students in science to create an educational program that would help renew students' interest in science, as well as develop critical skills in scientific thinking and computer programming.
The payload itself comprises a Raspberry Pi A+ single-board computer and a series of data sensors, which measured information such as temperature, air pressure, light levels and motion on board the space station. These data were then transmitted back to Earth for use by school students enrolled in the education program.
For the mission, Cuberider developed a fully-online science education program, which can either complement or entirely replace the school science syllabus for years 7-10. The platform assists students in developing their own science experiments, while teaching them the computer programming skills required to carry out the experiments, and providing hands-on experience with a real space mission and real scientific data.
In 2016, 54 schools and over 1000 students participated in the program. The feedback from students and teachers has been extremely positive, with many saying it's the most exciting thing they've ever done, and expressing an interest in future careers in space and science. The success of the 2016 mission was celebrated with an event at the Powerhouse Museum in November 2017, with a showcase of the best student science experiments. The payload was also donated by Cuberider to the Museum at this event.
In addition to its contribution to the STEM education space, Cuberider represents a major Australian achievement in the arena of space programs. Despite a long and successful history of involvement in communication and tracking for space missions ? which included receiving the live television signals from the Apollo 11 Moon landing ? Australia is, as of 2017, the only OECD country to lack a space agency.
The successful launch of the Cuberider payload to the ISS therefore represents a doorway to Australia being further involved in space programs. It also highlights the emergence of privately funded space-missions and the small, relatively inexpensive ?cubesats? now being launched into space, which, combined, are being heralding by some as the beginning of ?Space 2.0?.
Sarah Reeves, Assistant Curator, January 2018