democratizing science

Climate CubeSat Co-Building

Rigorous investigation of Earth’s changing climate by satellite technology will benefit from more equitable access to currently hard-to-reach tools. In an effort to democratize space and climate exploration, we developed the Climate CubeSat Co-Build (C3) program, a multi-tiered outreach platform which aims to enable learning communities—classrooms, cities, and public libraries—nationally and internationally, to gain technical literacy in fundamental principles of climate science, small spacecraft engineering, and data analysis in a highly collaborative setting.

A CubeSat being launched in space from a much larger satellite.

C3 lecture series session with high school students and guest lecturer, Danielle Wood. Avery Normandin & Devora Najjar (C3 Program leads), 1st row.

As the flagship element of this program, we are working with a cohort of 20 Boston-area high school students, primarily from non-dominant backgrounds, who will pioneer the development of a 3U cubesat with climate-sensing capabilities. Through the C3 curriculum, co-builders interface with local experts (MIT Lincoln Lab and AeroAstro) to manage and execute the build of an engineering cubesat model, including payload development, model testing, and subsequent analysis and iteration.

AeroAstro STAR Lab guest lecture with CubeSat models.

The resulting “BeaverCube,” capable of gathering cloud top and ocean infrared data, will serve as a standardized model suitable for modification and deployment by high school classrooms across the globe. Our pilot curriculum, which drew students from J.D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science (Roxbury) and the Clay Center for Science and Technology (Brookline), concluded in spring 2019, and resulted in the development of a 3U demosat capable of visible and infrared imaging, which we are preparing for testing on a high-altitude weather balloon. Our second cohort will begin in the fall of 2019.

Students working through design questions and systems engineering for their CubeSat subsystems.

To broaden the reach of C3 programming, we are working collaboratively with the Media Lab Learning initiative to bring this program to public libraries across the U.S. as part of their Public Library Innovation Exchange (PLIX) program. Our use of an online community publishing platform for these collaborations not only serves as a repository for lecture materials and workshop ideas, but also enables diverse learning communities to share data, experiences, successes, and failures in the learning process.

Learn more at

The kick-off session for our Space Explorations in Libraries program at Cambridge Public Library in March 2019. Participants are making model CubeSats out of craft materials.

Students at Cambridge Public Library tinker with Micro:bits for data collection as part of a high altitude balloon launch.

One participant doing a VR spacewalk!