Learning to Fly with Space Trek

Pheobyn Berdine Filander (17) from Zandvliet High School in Cape Town recently took part in the Space Trek bootcamp that saw 14 young women design, build and launch their very own satellites into the atmosphere using weather balloons. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience so Carla de Klerk sat down with Pheobyn to hear her thoughts on satellites, STEM and empowerment.

Tell us about Space Trek:

This past week has been hectic I mean at first we were just trying to give up becasue we didn’t know what to do. But we were constantly encouraged to go forward. Te last night was very emotional to give feedback on the week having gone through the whole process. The past week was awesome, I learnt a lot of new and exciting things I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

What I learnt this past week is that you can do anything you put your mind to, there were times when all we wanted to do was give up or we got emotional but then there were always people who would help you. Miss jen just gives off this positive energy that you can just feed off, which just encourages us to push ourselves to the limits. I enjoyed everything this past week. We got to meet new people, and learn new things. I was always someone who gave up quite easily, but through this past week I learnt to keep pushing forward and push myself harder becasue I can do anything I want to as long as I put the work in.

Have you ever imagined yourself experimenting with satellites?

No, I never though I could do anything like this until this past week. The experience really opened my eyes to our world and galaxy.

What have you learnt about satellites?

The interesting thing about satellites are that they are used for communication, for weather, and if we want to know what is happening on the other side of the country you would get information from a satellite.

So you built you own CricketSat?

Building the CricketSat was definitely my favourite part of the experience. Our mission was to measure the temperature up to 5 kilometres in the air. The CricketSat is attached to a string and then a helium balloon. So as the balloon goes up the sat will send back data through radio waves and between 4-6 kms it will eventually burst. We receive that data wirelessly to a computer. How the cricket sat works is that it chirps, spiking the waves on a speed relating to how cold or hot it is and through a mathematical calculation we convert that data into a temperature reading. To do this we have learnt to solder, which puts all the components of the satellite together, we used math equations to solve the mission as to the temperature of the atmosphere. We learnt about telecommunication, the atmosphere, radio waves and how we can use satellites in our everyday lives.

Why do you think young women are less inclined to follow a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) related degree and career?

Most women feel they are not worthy to do those jobs or careers. This is wrong because women can do anything a man can do even if we’re not physically as strong. If your heart is in it you can do anything.

What do you want to say to your fellow
classmates and young women of South Africa about STEM, Space and exciting opportunities like the one you are about to embark on?

Space Trek has opened my mind so I know now that I can do anything I set my mind to because I made it through the bootcamp, and I built my own satellite. How many other 17 year olds can say that? I learnt that I can be myself, that I am strong and I want other young women to know that they should always follow their hearts and never think less of themselves because their backgrounds. Never forget that “good enough” is not “good” enough. You CAN do better!

Interested to learn more?

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