Observatory’s summer interns find out how science is actually done through a hands-on experience

Last Monday, this summer’s Science Task Force was opened at the UT Tartu Observatory. Youngsters of the Science Task Force will be developing the ESTCube-2 satellite. In the main building, one can also meet summer interns of different departments, some of whom have come with the Estonian-Latvian space project SpaceTEM.

The Science Task Force participants are 9th to 12th grade students who are interested in space. “I wanted to join the Science Task Force to find out how science is actually done,” one of the participants, Kristi Koitla said. “ESTCube is one of the most interesting science projects in Estonia and it is a great honour to help develop the ESTCube-2 satellite.” Kristi’s first assignment will be exactly that: she has to build a spinning base to help test the inertial sensors of ESTCube by measuring the spinning speed of the base. Science Task Force students are also developing the software of the ESTCube-2 on-board computer, the radio communication system, and the control electronics of the Helmholtz coil.

Kristi is also happy to be able to develop her skills in programming and electronics. “I find this kind of experiences very useful in the current fast-changing technology world and I think it’s too bad that a lot of schools don’t really focus on gaining practical and technical skills,” she said. Kristi added that the observatory has a friendly environment that supports learning. “When I joined the Science Task Force, I was worried about not having enough experience or knowledge to do well, but I found out that’s not how it is. Even the ones who are much more experienced than I am face daily struggles and challenges in developing space technology,” she said.

On the opening day, the youngsters were given an overview of the Estonian space industry and the observatory’s role in it. They were also shown the work space, including the laboratories and the big telescope tower. The Science Task Force participants were then divided into groups. Premia had come to make sure everyone gets to enjoy the day with ice cream.

All together, there are five Science Task Force students, but university students are doing their summer internships at the observatory as well. There are over 20 of the older interns. Nine of them have come with the Estonian-Latvian space project SpaceTEM which is offering the internship possibility for the last time. The interns of the space technology department are also mainly developing the ESTCube-2 satellie, but also working on remotely controlled vehichles. There are also interns at the remote sensing department.

The Science Task Force is supported by the Tartu Hansa and Tartu Toome Rotary Clubs.