A student from the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering has designed a GPS enabled baton that is being used to track and record a re-enactment of Shackleton’s history-making 1916 Antarctic voyage, whilst promoting the charitable work of Armed Forces charity The Baton.
Matt Silver is an electronic engineering with space science and technology student at the University, and designed the baton using the GPS related skills he learnt through the third year of his course.
The Baton is a military charity, which uses the handle of a stretcher bought back from Camp Bastion in Afghanistan as its symbol. The charity was planning a re-enactment of Shackleton’s voyage and Matt saw the opportunity to GPS enable its ‘baton’ in order to track the event.
Sir Ernest Shackleton’s trans-Antarctic expedition is one of the greatest survival stories in history, and has inspired adventurers across every continent over three generations.
Matt said: “While the idea appeared simple enough, there was a lot of research required to make it work in the field. I needed to look at a variety of devices, antenna, options for data retrieval and power, and come up with a low cost solution that was also efficient and durable.
“I settled eventually on a waterproof GPS data logger, with lithium battery power supply estimated to last about a month with the GPS logging once an hour. I also implemented a custom external GPS antenna, as the baton was thick aluminium and therefore blocked the GPS signal.
“My main challenge was in finding a small enough device to fit in the baton, and to get it all working to a strict timeframe ahead of the start of the challenge.”
Matt was, however, successful, and trustee of the charity WO Barry Gray RM will be setting off with the crew of the ‘Alexandra Shackleton’ – a replica of Shackleton’s James Caird lifeboat named after his granddaughter the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton – in January 2013.
Matt said: “To this day, no-one has successfully re-enacted Shackleton’s complete ‘double’ journey across sea and land using traditional gear so being involved in such an ambitious project has been very exciting. I wish the team all the best and am looking forward to studying the GPS data we receive.”
For more information about the Shackleton Epic expedition on which Matt’s device will be carried, please visit the expedition website.
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