Hamilton Secondary College (Hamilton College) is a specialist school in South Australia providing students with the critically important science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. It has actively pursued a high-quality education that is agile and innovative so students are equipped to be tomorrow’s leaders.
In South Australia, the very state Elon Musk built his giant battery, high school students from Hamilton Secondary College (Hamilton College) are being given the opportunity to realise the entrepreneur’s vision of interplanetary travel.
The College’s Space School Lead Astronomy teacher, Tony Virgo, wanted his students to discover for themselves what it would be like to overcome a 300-day journey and be able to complete science experiments on Mars themselves. The college engaged Programmed Electrical Technologies, who as project developer, didn’t disappoint and delivered fantastic results.
The vision of space travel was realised through the College’s complete building fit-out to produce a space centre within the school consisting of:
- A briefing room
- A mission control centre,
- Mars – a simulation area using lighting and audio-visual sequences to replicate a Martian crater and landscape featuring seven different geological zones, as well as an astronaut’s service area complete with airlocks.
Each exploratory journey begins with an introductory video in the briefing room outlining various issues students (mission directors and astronauts) need to overcome in moving humans to Mars. This video is displayed on the room’s 4.5 square metre, 4k-capable video wall with an Earth (or Mars!) shattering audio system.
The system also includes a lectern microphone and 6 wireless microphones for briefings and presentations. It is a video wall which leverages cutting-edge video streaming technology.
Vision from any of the 12 computers in the mission control centre as well as the four cameras in the surface simulation area can be streamed live into the briefing room where observers can partake vicariously in each expedition.
Meanwhile, the mission control centre allows students acting as mission directors to monitor the astronauts through real-time data and voice messaging as the space team travels to and from Mars, as well as when they are on its surface.
Four 55’’ displays allow the mission directors to pull up content from any of the control centre’s computer screens. Mission directors also have the capability to track and record the experiments as they happen on Mars.
Tying the entire session all together are 32 computer-controlled LED lights using 478 DMX channels which are programmed to replicate complex scenes of life on Mars. Through a lighting sequence, the system simulates in 55 minutes; a whole day on Mars, from sunrise to sunset as well as its vacillating weather conditions – sandstorms, lightning storms and solar flares. There is also a work light mode to replicate a routine room maintenance setting.
The design of the Mission to Mars project replicates real-life NASA explorations to Mars and how they send space probes to the planet’s craters to collect samples. Its true-to-life experience extends through to students wearing actual astronaut space suits.
The dreams of exploring and venturing to see who (or what) resides on our neighbouring red planet, have become a reality for students at Hamilton College through an experience that is quite literally out of this world.
“Hamilton Space School selected Programmed Electrical Technologies to develop the complex lighting sequence for our “Mission to Mars” activity on our simulated Mars surface. They were very keen to ensure that the final product was exactly what the mission needed and to meet our general needs. This required the staff from Programmed regularly visiting the site to gain a deep understanding of how the mission would run and what technical requirements were needed,” said Tony Virgo, Lead Teacher of Hamilton College’s Space School
With this immersive, hands-on learning experience, Hamilton College has the keys to being a global leader in space education.
“We have been extremely pleased with their commitment to the project and their willingness to make minor adjustments to the lighting sequence as they were needed,” said Mr Virgo.
- Audio Visual
- AV, Data Comms & Electrical