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The Countdown Institute introduces new Code in Space program

By  Alex de Carvalho and Richard Schuchts

Countdown LogoAs children, we each dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Who didn't? Space exploration and thoughts of "what is out there" helped spur our imagination and dreams. As kids, imagine how fun it would have been to interact with live satellites in space!

The Countdown Institute, a Miami-based startup, provides today’s kids an exclusive opportunity to do just that. Countdown launches its Code in Space program on Oct. 25 at The LAB Miami. Students take two in-class sessions on successive weekends and then continue the lessons online to learn coding and computer science by interacting with a live satellite orbiting the Earth. Register online at https://countdowninstitute.eventbrite.com

Code in Space is the first course of its kind and uses Arduino sensors and the Ardusat satellite platform. Organizations like NASA have programs to teach coding via space exploration, but now the same advantages are available for the first time in a classroom setting.

Coding teaches critical thinking to solve problems and overcome challenges. As we think about possible solutions, we exercise curiosity and creativity in how to best tackle the problem. The helps develop lateral thinking to deal with unexpected situations.

CountdownimageWe live in an increasingly connected world and soon, connected devices around us will be collecting and displaying all kinds of information. Soon enough, our world will be filled with sensors everywhere. If you can control sensors in space today, you will be able to control the sensors around you tomorrow.

But learning coding is not something we are all comfortable learning using current teaching methods.  Thus, Code in Space introduces coding in the context of space and a real satellite.  We learn best when solving problems in a way that feels like play.

More than critical thinking, practicality, and fun, learning to code provides marketable skills. In today's world, corporate jobs are no longer for life and people must increasingly control their own destiny. In his book "Outliers," Malcolm Gladwell demonstrated that people achieve mastery in any field after 10,000 hours of practice. The sooner we encourage our children to code, the better we will prepare them for their future. 

At the first of two in-person classes, students will break into teams and use space exploration to understand about satellites, Ardusat program, Arduino platform, computer science basics, and sensors on the satellite.  We then write some simple code to conduct Earth-based measurements on a wide variety of sensors found on the satellite. 

When we meet for the second in-person class, we will work on a specific experiment for the satellite.  We will discuss our goals and alternatives and select a collective project that we will watch be implemented and unfold over the coming days or weeks.

The course includes extensive online content as well.  Prior to the first class, students will have access to videos and other online learning materials.  Between the two in person classes, students use online materials to further explore each of these sensor based experiments and a variety of additional materials. 

After the classes, students and faculty communicate and collaborate via the online environment to resolve issues and debug the code.  This is space after all.  Space exploration is very focused, process-oriented, and logical.  But it always involves problem solving, adapting to harsh conditions, and the realities of working on something far above our heads in space.  The end result is a successful test of a sensor on the Ardusat satellite.

After our successful mission, the Mission Debrief stage will feature faculty evaluating the progress of students, answering questions, and sharing thoughts among the group.  After all, we are going on a mission together, it is certain there will be a lot to learn and share.

Many thanks to our partners at LAB Miami and Ardusat.  We are proud to have on our faculty some of Miami's best makers, coders, and entrepreneurs.  We are proud to be a part of this community. 

Coding really is rocket fuel for a kid's mind ... and imagination.  Don’t you wish you were a kid living in today?  Well, your kids and grandchildren are.  If you’d like share this experience with them, sign them up to participate in this unique experiential learning opportunity. 

Sure, they will be the ones to keep the T-shirt, handbook, and certificate.  But you just may find that you are the one who can’t stop talking about it with your friends. 

The exclusive launch weekends for Code in Space are October 25 and November 1 (students attend BOTH Saturdays).  For more information: www.countdowninstitute.com or info@countdowninstitute.com.  To register, https://countdowninstitute.eventbrite.com

 Alex de Carvalho, Richard Schuchts and Jessica Burns co-founded The Countdown Institute with Ajit Jaokar,  a data science expert and professor at Oxford University who was inspired to start The Countdown Institute by his 11-year-old son, Aditya.