Teenager wins out of this world competition for satellite

Awais Ali, 16, a pupil at Derby Grammar School, will receive £3,000 and expert advice on how to develop his idea for an app for cyclists, which would help them choose routes and send an automatic alert if they had an accident.

Now in its fifth year, the SatelLife Competition awards young people a share of £50,000 for the best ideas for how to use data collected from space to benefit daily life, with ideas this year including apps to help energy consumers, protect plans vital for carbon absorption and improve the prediction of earthquakes.

A team from the University of Leicester won the group prize for its idea to track harmful levels of minerals and nutrients in water, which can be a danger to health and ecosystems. There were also prizes for eight runners up, comprising four individuals and four teams.

Awais Ali said:

When I heard I had won, I was ecstatic. My idea started when I read up about the eCall technology in cars, which automatically calls emergency services with your location in the event of an accident, but I couldn’t find any similar products made especially for cyclists, like myself. Cyclists regularly ride in rural areas and often in isolation, so a design feature to ensure their safety is paramount.

I would be thrilled to have my idea taken into production as it would be so rewarding to be part of a product that could save a life.

This year will see the first satellite launch take place from a UK spaceport, with Virgin Orbit’s horizontal launch system set to lift off from Spaceport Cornwall. This will be followed by vertical launch from Shetland’s SaxaVord Spaceport and Space Hub Sutherland.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:

The countdown is on for Britain to become the first nation in Europe to offer small satellite launch, building on our world-leading satellite manufacturing industry. Seeing satellites launch from the UK for the first time will be a huge moment and one that I hope will inspire people to think about the opportunities in our growing space sector.

It is fantastic to see young people so passionate about using space tech to improve our lives and my congratulations go to Awais, the team from the University of Leicester and all the runners-up. It is this imagination and creativity that will ensure the UK space sector continues to grow.

Satellites support the economy and everyday life, and this competition gives people aged 11-22 the chance to test their ideas with space experts and perhaps one day become part of one of the UK’s fastest growing industries which already employs 47,000 people.

The UK Space Agency is committed to championing the power of space to inspire people and to offer greener, smarter solutions for businesses, supporting a more sustainable future.

British ESA astronaut Tim Peake said:

It has been amazing to see millions of people inspired by my journey to space and I hope that, when satellites launch from the UK, it will help to show young people that there are all sorts of jobs in the space sector.

Satellites are playing a huge role in our daily lives, from monitoring climate change, to watching television and it is amazing to see the fantastic ideas for ways they can improve life on Earth. A huge congratulations to Awais, the team from the University of Leicester and all the runners-up.

Mohammed Siddiqui, from the winning team at the University of Leicester, called EUTROPH-1, said:

I’m ecstatic that our revolutionary and pioneering idea on tracking eutrophication using a satellite platform has excelled and triumphed at the SatelLife Competition. Our water bodies today are increasingly being polluted with industrial and agricultural waste and these actions are putting our marine ecosystems at high risk of getting eutrophicated. Therefore, our satellite will provide vital data to help track and manage the risks for the development of eutrophication.

I would like to continue working on further developing our idea beyond the concept stage with the goal of converting it into a reality and launching it into space. My aspiration is to build a career in the space industry as I aim to innovatively and sustainably contribute to help transform the space sector.

The judging panel was made up of experts including industry representatives and the UK Space Agency, Satellite Applications Catapult and European Space Agency (ESA).

The UK is a leading investor in ESA’s business applications programme and hosts the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

Individual category winners

Cycle Aid, Awais Ali, 16, from Derby Grammar School

Winner in the Individual Category – Awarded £3,000

Awais is a keen cyclist and wanted a system specific to bicycles to aid navigation across a variety of terrains and alert people in the event of an emergency. He proposes software utilising GPS and meteorological information to help choose routes and timing and, through telemetry such as gyroscopes, alert trusted individuals to an unexpected change of route or unusual movement that would indicate that the cyclist has had crashed or been involved in an incident.

Increasing and Encouraging Energy Efficiency with Satellite Data: Microgrids, Eleanor Stanton, 22, from the National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton

Runner Up in Individual Category – Awarded £2187.50

Eleanor wants to change the public perception of energy use through an interactive app which uses data from Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). She proposes the integration of SMRs into a microgrid alongside renewables such as wind and solar. Through the strategic use of meteorological satellite data to predict the efficiency of renewables and use of data from SMRs, consumers of energy can monitor where their energy is coming from, learn more about nuclear energy and encourage conservation.

Using Satellites to Determine the Optimum Shipping Routes for Sustainable Shipping, Callum Reid, 14, from Southmoor Academy, Sunderland

Runner Up in the Individual Category – Awarded £2,187.50

Callum’s idea involves receiving data from ocean-observing satellites in order to predict the strength and direction of global ocean currents, and the ability to determine optimum routes and conditions for global shipping. With this concept, shipping companies could determine the quickest, safest and most cost-effective routes, decreasing journey times, increasing fuel efficiency, decreasing costs and reducing both the volume of greenhouse gases emitted by the global shipping industry and the impact on climate change.

Using Satellite Technology in Landmine and UXO Detection, Oscar Scully, 17, from Aquinas College, Stockport

Runner Up in the Individual Category – Awarded £2,187.50

Oscar’s entry used satellite imagery, positioning and scanning technologies such as ground penetrating radar to make detection and removal of landmines safer, cheaper and more reliable. Oscar believes that such a system would help reduce the impact of warfare and remnants of indiscriminate ordnance on communities living in post-war environments and ultimately save lives.

Satellite Blockchain Solutions (SBS), Troy Wood, 20, from University Academy 92, Manchester

Runner Up in Individual Category – Awarded £2,187.50

Troy proposed the use of satellite blockchains to store encrypted data from aircraft black boxes, with greater connectivity and security than through cloud base servers. This would help in cases where the retrieval of black box data is not possible.

Team category winners

EUTROPH-1: A Eutrophication Tracking Satellite, Fiona Poda and Riyad, both 22, and Mohammed Siddiqui and Domen Gostincar, both 20, from the University of Leicester

Winner in the Team Category – Awarded £12,000

Eutrophication is the process by which a body of water becomes progressively enriched with minerals and nutrients. The effects can be harmful to health and a danger to ecosystems. Team EUTROPH-1 propose the use of a satellite to monitor, track and assess the risk of the development of eutrophication in bodies of water through remote sensors. The data would feed a warning scale according to warning signs and risks, prompting increased monitoring and increasing methods of prevention.

3mergency (Pronounced Emergency), Team 3mergency – Neve Bennett, Faye Crowley, Amber Russell, all 15, and Lily Tonkin, 14, from Penrice Academy, Cornwall

Runner Up in Team Category – Awarded £8,750

3Mergency’s idea is a necklace or pendent fitted with a covert emergency beacon. By activating the concealed button on the pendent, a signal is received via MEO satellites and up to three emergency contacts will be alerted to the wearer’s location and emergency. If the button is pushed twice, the police will be alerted to your emergency and location. The pendent links with an app which contains maps and can be customised to include safe havens such as friends and family homes and allows the user to cancel false activations.

TectOrbit, Michael Clark and Aryan Shah, both 18, undergraduates at Imperial College London

Runner Up in the Team Category – Awarded £4,375

TectOrbit would see the deployment of satellites in geostationary orbit, paired with a fleet of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV), each containing equipment that would maximise the confidence and accuracy of earthquake prediction through timely data analysis. Where warning level thresholds are met or exceeded, relevant authorities would be alerted.

Native Seagrass Monitoring using Geosynchronous Satellites, Dylan Spokes, 17, and Hayley Watson, 18, from Truro College, Cornwall

Runner Up in Team Category – Awarded £4,375

Dylan and Hayley propose the use of satellite data to assess the condition of native seagrass, which is responsible for 15% of all carbon absorption within oceans, restoring and improving growth where required. Through high-definition optics, they would monitor the colour or plants, the temperature of coastal waters and density of human activity particularly fishing.

DriverAid – Matthew Barrat, Ryan Kirkham, Hannah Baker and Hugo Phillips, all 18, from the Commonweal Sixth Form College, Swindon

Runner Up in Team Category – Awarded £8,750

DriverAid is an app to reduce traffic emissions from non-commercial road traffic by discouraging longer and unnecessary journeys and promoting alternative, sustainable transport methods and encouraging people to walk or cycle where possible to improve their health and general fitness. The app would produce scores for each journey according to distance, necessity, and proximity to residential areas, translating to rewards.

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