Student experiment launched into space

15 March 2018

Joseph Jones studies Physics, Maths, Chemistry and the EPQ at Ashton Sixth Form College. In mid-April, his experiment will travel two orbits on board the International Space Station (ISS). The results from the experiment on board the ISS will then be used for his Extended Project Qualification.

Joseph is part of the XL programme for high achievers at the college and began his early education at St. Damian’s RC Science College.

While at home, Joseph’s mum showed him a Facebook post by the Ogden Trust regarding the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Joseph is an Alumnus of the Ogden Trust, after receiving ‘Physicist of the Year’ during a ceremony at the University of Manchester last year.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK based charity providing young people with low-cost, high performance computers, to encourage and help them to learn and explore the digital world. From the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Joseph found Astro Pi and entered a competition known as Mission Space Lab. Joseph passed various stages of the application process; designed and created an experiment, wrote code, constructed graphs, and ran initial mock experiments. Following various stages, Joseph’s experiment was chosen to board the International Space Station. The ISS is the largest human-made body in low Earth Orbit and has been in action since its launch in 1998.

Joseph decided his proposal would be to measure the eccentricity of the ISS’s orbit (how circular the orbit is). He also wanted to measure the uniformity of the Earth’s magnetic field and how our magnetic field is affected by solar flares and cosmic rays.

When Astro Pi accepted his experiment for the International Space Station, Joseph contacted them to find out more and they informed him that his experiment scored well across the board of judges. He also noted that,

“A panel composed of ESA (European Space Agency), the Raspberry Pi Foundation (RPF), as well as other national experts concluded that my code had clarity and rigour.”

The passion Joseph has for his subject is infectious. At such a young age, Joseph has a great confidence in his ability to achieve beyond what others would think possible. His ability to speak about his own work and think independently about areas of research is commendable.

David Potts, Physics teacher at Ashton Sixth Form College said,

"Joe has always been an exceptional student whose keen mind and sharp eye for linking scientific topics together has ensured that he's been able to understand and manipulate physics at a really fundamental level.  His talent for identifying problems and coming up with novel solutions is far beyond what I would expect for a student of his age and I'm therefore not surprised that he's become my first student to have a piece of his work launched into space! Joe continues to improve his scientific talents and I have no doubt that he will be one of the brightest stars of the UK's scientific community in years to come.”

Joseph commented on the process,

“It’s a massive opportunity and it’s come at the right time for EPQ as well. It is quite good to improve your experimental practice, which you get tested on in Chemistry and Physics – your practical endorsement.”

“Computer Science teacher Rob, he’s helped me verify the code, make sure it all works. But David’s made sure it’s all feasible, my ideas.”

Joseph plans to go on to study a Physics degree at university. The EPQ and the outstanding work he consistently produces will enable him to stand out. The skills Joseph is developing at such a high level will propel him to go on to produce incredible research in the future.


Update: British Astronaut, Tim Peake, who spent six months on board the ISS, has commended Joseph's work via social media, sharing the story to his Twitter and Facebook following:

To find out more about Science and Maths courses at Ashton Sixth Form College click here

To find out more about the Ashton XL programme for high achievers click here

Listen to Joseph speak about his achievements below:

Tags: XL physics maths science and maths chemistry EPQ

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