Aimee Hopper's bursary placement

Aimee Hopper, from Deeside College in Wrexham, worked at the Photonics Academy at OpTICs with Ray Davies for 5 weeks for her Nuffield bursary. Her project was entitled S.P.A.C.E. B.U.G. ('Searching Photonics Assisted Collecting Expedient, Built Using Gadgets').

"This placement was one of the most interesting and imaginative experiences of my life so far. Never have I known so much charisma and ingenuity in one area, all working towards their own, unique and impossible goals."

The aims of the project
The aim of this project is simple - to set out and achieve the impossible, whilst bringing the future into the present.

How the project was carried out
My S.P.A.C.E. B.U.G. is designed as a search and collect robot, being able to combat all types of terrain and collect sample data from unexplored areas of, ultimately, never before examined planets, and return these samples to earth for analyzing and cataloguing.

In the beginning, I was shown the 8 properties and characteristics of a laser and the way in which they are manipulated and utilized. I then created a mind map of as many helpful aspects of human life possible, stretching from eating utensils to detection equipment, and tried to determine which ideas utilize the properties of the laser usefully. Eventually, S.P.A.C.E. B.U.G. materialized, since this would be the most exciting, challenging and interesting project to create.

During the first week of the project, soldering accurately and precisely was the main goal, as well as designing the circuitry and brain for the B.U.G. The first circuit made and tested was an Operational Amplifier, since this would be the circuit which would detect the light of the laser, and the basis of the project as a whole. Later, other circuits would come to manipulate the signal received by the Op. Amp. and make the B.U.G. respond in the correct manner.

Logic gates were used in the circuits to get the B.U.G to respond correctly, and the Brain of the S.P.A.C.E. B.U.G. would be the most complex piece of soldering in the project, holding 12 logic chips to make the B.U.G. work as required for each situation it encounters.

Manufacture of the body of the B.U.G. took place during the final week. The main body is made out of different coloured acrylic, all filed and polished for a shiny, fluorescent finish.

What I found out
Throughout the project I learnt an enormous amount about optoelectronics, photonics and life in general, whilst experiencing occasions I could never have experienced in my everyday life. There was a constant environment of enthusiasm and charisma throughout the other participants of the course and the surrounding international scientists who were constantly drifting in and out of our workshop.

S.P.A.C.E. B.U.G. was, and still is, my own impossible goal. With its ability to tackle any form of terrain to collect new and unbefore discovered data from unreachable destinations, from volcanic depths to the craters and land of Gleis 581, S.P.A.C.E. B.U.G. forms the foundation of my discovery of extra-terrestrial life.

The most valuable thing about the bursary experience
I learnt how to organize my work effectively and design a project based on a concept. This, along with other skills I learnt, has given me the effective stepping stones required in making my move to university and furthering my career in Space Exploration.