Provost Russell Pinizzotto’s hopes for his Introduction to Astronomy class this fall were high—very, very high. Literally, hundreds of miles above the Earth.
Instead of focusing only on textbooks and theory, his students focused on one major project: building a picture-snapping nanosatellite complete with communications capabilities, power sources, and a telescope. By the end of the semester, students had successfully designed and built a 10 x 10 x 38cm model of the device, which Pinizzotto calls a “kind of mini Hubble [Telescope].” Future classes will work on designing a ground station to collect images taken by the satellite and figure out how to get the device ready for orbit.
The full effort will require students to find a larger satellite launch they can piggyback, but when it does finally launch, says Pinizzotto, it will be powerful enough to get detailed campus shots from miles overhead. “If we get the time right, we hope to get a picture of students arranged on Sweeney Field spelling out W-I-T.” –DAN MORRELL