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Summer Interns Bring Project Serol to Life

The Las Cumbres Observatory education team tripled in size this summer, as four interns joined us to work on an exciting new project for elementary school students called 'Project Serol'.

Alice Hopkinson, Susannah Leah and Ronan Smith joined us from Durham University in the North of England, where they study a mixture of Physics, and Physics & Astronomy. While Brandon Robertson is studying Aerospace Engineering at the University of the West of England. All four were based in Cardiff, UK for the Internship, under the supervision of Edward Gomez and Sarah Eve Roberts.

The students brought with them a variety of exciting new skills in 3D design and printing, animation, graphic design and coding. To make the most of their expertise, we devised an ambitious project for them to delve into called ‘Project Serol’, with the aim of inspiring young children and raising awareness of Las Cumbres Observatory.

The project was designed around ‘Serol’, a character created in 2015 to help children understand LCO’s unique scheduling system. Software can be an abstract concept to children, but using Serol we are able to explain how the scheduler works in an understandable way.

Webpage graphic

Project Serol that consists of four parts: a 3D component, a series of animations, a set of print materials, and a website that challenges users to complete a set of space-related missions.   

3D printed Serol and 2m telescope model

Brandon worked on 3D component: "I was responsible for designing and printing a variety of 3D models. Most of my time this summer was spent creating a 3D printed model of the robot, Serol. I also created a model of each LCO telescope (0.4-m, 1m and 2m), along with cases for a variety of raspberry pi's, Project Serol logos and a selection of servo driven LCO telescopes."

The servo driven telescopes were used by Ronan and Brandon to create an interactive 3D printed model of the LCO network.

The animation was illustrated and brought to life by Alice: “I worked on an animation about SEROL’s journey to build the LCO telescope network. I used Adobe Photoshop to draw the characters and backgrounds, then brought the characters to life using Adobe Character Animator, and put it all together in Adobe After Effects to produce the final animation. It was great to work on and contribute to this educational project, and seeing it come together at the end was really exciting. I’m now working on the second episode which will be about SEROL investigating a star and through this SEROL and the audience learn about the life cycle of stars.”

Edward took the lead on the website, designing a platform on which students will work through a series of missions designed by the team to get children using the LCO telescopes, teach them about a variety of astronomical topics and allow them to practice scientific investigation.

Upon completing a challenge or mission, students will receive a badge designed by Susannah. Using her artistic talents, Susannah designed a badge for each of the 15 challenges, three unique mission patches and a companion poster chart upon which to display their rewards. Susannah and Alice also worked together to design a paper model of Serol that can be printed and built at home.

The Project Serol website will go live later this year.

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