Year nine student creates MP3 player for Tim Peake

Portsmouth High student’s code to be sent to the International Space Station after winning Astro-Pi competition

Portsmouth High School’s student Lowena Hull, 13, was recently a winner in the 11-13 category in the Astro-Pi coding challenge competition. The challenged was launched by the Raspberry Pi Foundation for young programmers to write code that will be sent up to the International Space Station (ISS) to be used by British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake.

The Astro-Pi is an adapted version of the Raspberry-Pi computer that is suitable for use in the space environment. It uses an 8×8 LED display and a few buttons and a joystick as its input. It also has a set of environmental sensors and a gyroscope and magnetometer.

Lowena was challenged with writing code to use the Astro-Pi as an MP3 player for Tim to listen to music in space while exercising on a treadmill. The judges were selected from companies who have contributed to the Astro Pi mission so far, including UK Space Agency (UKSA), European Space Agency (ESA), BIOTESC, Royal Institution, CGI, Surrey Satellite Technology and Raspberry Pi.

“I was so excited to win my category,” said Lowena. “It was really challenging as I had to learn Python programming language from scratch but I am delighted to know that I have created a music player for Tim Peake.”

Mr Gary Barrows, teacher of computer science at Portsmouth High School, said: “It is a fantastic opportunity for the students to write code that could be used on board the International Space Station.

“Lowena, as always, was keen to give this her very best which included going into school over the Easter break to work on the project. I’m extremely pleased that all her hard work has really paid off.”

Entries were received from all over the UK and were judged across four age categories; 11 and under, 11 to 13, 14 to 16 and 17 to 18. Four programmes will be going up to the ISS for Tim to use on the Astro-Pi computers on board, to listen to his music in space.

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