Efforts to get more girls involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) related fields are noble causes. But seldom do they have such a landmark impact as in the latest out of South Africa.
17-year-old Brittany Bull and 16-year-old Sesam Mngqengqiswa are a part of a group of high school students from Cape Town, South Africa that plan on launching a satellite that will scan Africa’s landscape.
The satellite, slated to launch in May of next year, will orbit around Earth to collect information regarding Africa’s agriculture and food security on the continent.
According to Bull in an interview with CNN, using the information that will be transmitted by the satellite, “we can try to determine and predict the problems Africa will be facing in the future.” She further explains that they can plant trees and vegetation in ideal areas in addition to better monitoring of floods, droughts, and forest fires.
The team is aided by South Africa’s Meta Economic Development Organization (MEDO) with help from the US’ Morehead State University. They were trained by satellite engineers from Cape Peninsula University of Technology. A successful launch means that MEDO will be the first private African company to build and operate a satellite.
Advances in the field of aerospace engineering have made it possible for private groups to build and operate vehicles and objects that work in space; the most prominent of these is SpaceX. Like the students from Africa, engineers from the Philippines have also launched their own satellite equipped with imaging sensors to observe meteorological events.
The advances not only benefit private groups; other countries not usually known for aerospace developments are also launching their own satellites. India for example has launched 20 satellites in a single payload, each carrying various sensing and imaging tools.
Hopefully, the developments in Africa would help promote more participation from students in the region in the STEM fields. “I want to show to fellow girls that we don’t need to sit around or limit ourselves. Any career is possible — even aerospace,” Bull says.