Catch the Volcano! Satellite and Thermal Imaging Mission

Figure 1: The digital elevation model of Fuego with Fuego erupting in 2018 as a background Source: BBC News

2 weeks ago we had a fantastic opportunity to host an event to share our project with aspiring young students as a part of the Access to Bristol scheme. UoBSat’s mission is not only to contribute to science but also to inform the public about engineering in space and the importance of space technology.

The event consisted of a small introduction about what we do and our project objectives, followed by our interactive activity, ‘Catch the Volcano!’. This activity sees students perform a simulated version of our mission! They program a sequence where they can simulate a volcano erupting and then use our purpose-built gantry system to capture thermal infrared images of the erupting volcanos.

The team designed and constructed a gantry with a mechanised rig, fitted with a TIR camera at the centre. The rig was automated with two stepper motors so the camera is manoeuvrable. The first part of the activity involved students programming Arduino Unos to flash a simple LED in a breadboard. Our team walked the students through how to use the Arduino IDE and how a breadboard works.

Figure 2: The CTV! gantry and joystick

The second half of the activity saw the LEDs swapped out for Peltier heating elements which were hidden within 3D-printed volcanoes of Fuego. These volcanoes were special as they are exact digital elevation model reconstructions created from footage taken by the Bristol Flight Lab and are also one of PROVE’s target volcanoes.

Once the Peltiers had been swapped in, the 5 teams took turns and competed to direct an elected team member to move the TIR camera with the aim to take as many pictures of erupting volcanos as possible.

Figure 3: “Erupting” Volcano
Figure 4: “Inactive” Volcano

The students were keen to learn about PROVE’s purpose and thoroughly enjoyed the activity. The team were able to educate and utilize programming techniques in practical terms but also make it an enjoyable experience for students. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to spread our knowledge and ambitions to a wider and budding audience. This will become a more frequent event run by us for the University of Bristol – inspiring students to consider engineering as a career path and become part of their journey. We would particularly like to thank the CAME outreach team, Josh and Anna, for their support in setting up the activity.