A team of young women from Kyrgyzstan who are working on sending the country’s first satellite to space was on campus last week to meet scientists as part of a trip to the UK.
Kyrgyz Satellite team representatives Alina Anisimova, Anna Boiko and Aidana Aidarbekova came to Bath after making contact with Dr Asel Sartbaeva from the Department of Chemistry, who is well known in Kyrgyzstan for her scientific research on improving vaccines and her advocacy for women and girls to pursue STEM studies and careers.
Over several days the team members were hosted by Dr Sartbaeva and met scientists from around the University, including satellite expert Professor Cathryn Mitchell from the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering and the Centre for Space, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, and and PhD student Talini Pinto Jayawardena who is working on sending a miniaturised satellite into space herself.
The Kyrgyz Satellite team will shortly be buying a development kit satellite to create and optimise their design, and then hope to be able to send the real thing into space in 2021.
The nine young women working on the project are aged 18-25 and come from a variety of backgrounds including programming, data science and linguistics. As well as working on the scientific challenges of developing the satellite, they also have to run communications and fundraising campaigns for the project and deliver workshops to young women on subjects including electrical engineering and coding.
Alina said: “It’s a social project as well, we don’t only want to teach people about the technical challenges but we want to inspire women and girls to know that they can do these kinds of careers.
“It’s great to be here with Asel, she’s very famous in Kyrgyzstan and is a role model for a lot of people.”
Dr Sartbaeva said: “This is a great project where young girls have found a way of resisting the gender disadvantage for females in a positive way. I really like that the girls are not only learning programming, modelling, soldering and other important engineering and science skills, but also teach other young high-school girls all of those important skills and many other social skills and talk about women rights and equality. They are already an example that no amount of gender stereotyping, trolling and disregard will stop the enthusiasm and passion of young minds. The social and psychological impact of this project is already huge, these girls are role models for future female scientists and engineers in Kyrgyzstan. ”
Kyrgyzstan was involved in the USSR’s space programme, but following the Soviet bloc’s collapse has never sent its own satellite into space.
During their visit to the UK the team have also visited Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) Space and the Diamond Light Source facilities. This week they will visit the Royal Society in London, where they will have a chance to meet British astronaut Helen Sharman, and attend the Symposium on Space Educational Activities organized by the European Space Agency at the University of Leicester.