CanSats and Nepal: Is it worth placing them together?

The I-CanSat with PIC based On Board Computer,
Prof. Kimura's (big fan) 3D printed camera with electronics and a whole lotta goodies.
It's about 3 am in the morning and I am waiting for arsenal's game to start anytime soon. I am in dire need of sandwich but too lazy to head out of my hotel room. You see where I get my priorities wrong?

Before I delve any more further into my usual self, I will touch on something I have been working on for a couple of days here in Japan. Hokkaido University is hosting this year's CanSat Leader Training Program, a program that aims to help developing nations build a base for space education in their respective countries through CanSats (Satellites in a Can). When people think of space, they think of all the fancy ass shit they watch on movies but what's happening in the real world is lot less..sparkly, for the lack of a better word. Especially in the case of university level space education. 

What I did and what my peers do is plain simple: we take commercially available sensors and space qualify them using rule of thumbs we are already aware of. Funny enough, that's what SpaceX does and that's what startups like PlanetLabs has been doing as well. In a sense, it's embedded system design in extreme form. What CanSats do is take out "space" from the equation while leaving all the basic ingredients of a satellite intact while still pretending to act like a satellite. So what has Nepal to do with this?

During my brief visit back home, I got to interact with Kathmandu University's KURobotics Team during my hour long presentation on product development. What's clear is that undergraduate students lack hands-on practical approach to embedded system design. What I mean by that is practical application of mechanics and electronics and use of simple prototyping platforms like arduinos are practically absent. Few enthusiasts who are in the team learn it the hard way (well, we all did. Thank the internet) and the rest just get lost in translation. 

What they require is a simple kit to teach them programming, hardware and soldering and all the tit bits that comes while learning to design a system. CanSats can be a great medium to teach them to do just that even though they are specifically meant to train students to step-up their game through CubeSats and eventually Micro-Sats. Look at how Japanese universities have progressed through the same concept.

Nepal at this moment in time, doesn't need space. I strongly believe that government funding, people's tax money so to speak, needs to be spent on education and on internet infrastructure. Two vitally important aspects that are key for the next 50 years. Internet because the resources are endless and education because people need to understand what's written on the internet. That's it. and just let people fiddle around with a net for few years, DIY learners will be aplenty. 

That should be the government's priority. Not space. Don't bullshit and complain that the government doesn't support space programs in Nepal. It has enough problems of its own. The next generation is hungry for better, basic education. Feed that first.

Besides that, people like you and me, who have been trained on hands on software, hardware and mechatronics have the obligation to find a way to help students like Saurav, who currently leads KURobotics, learn embedded systems through CanSats or any other form for that matter. But there's one tiny problem.


Well, at least we know what the bottle neck is. There are a few ways around the problem but that's for some future time to discuss. My game's going to start soon anyways.


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