Brittany Helps Launch SA’s First Private Satellite

When asked why women are less interested in science and technology than men, Brittany Bull says it is because of what society expects from them. She suggests that in most societies, women are mostly expected to cook, clean, and raise the kids. Brittany however, has no interest in what society expects of her.

Born and raised in Grassy Park (Cape Town), the 18 year old Brittany was part of a team of teenage girls who helped launch South Africa’s first Privately owned satellite. The satellite is designed to orbit over Earth’s poles, scan the surface of the African continent and monitor the continent’s shifting weather conditions. However, Brittany and her team did not build the actual satellite.

The girls were given the task of building and programming the satellite’s payload. The payload is the reason for the satellite being sent to space. In this case, the payload is a circuit board that is programmed to collect data in space and send it back to earth. The circuit board is no different to the circuit board in a laptop or cellphone. It is basically the brain of any electronic device and without it, the device won’t know what to do.

Brittany and her teammates first built the circuit board and then programmed it to collect detailed thermal imaging. The thermal images, which are sent back to earth twice a day, will be used to help prevent weather related disasters and improve food security in the region. “We can try to determine and predict the problems Africa will be facing in the future,” says Brittany. In a nutshell, the satellite will be used to determine where natural disasters will occur and where the soil is rich for agriculture and forestry.

Brittany’s first ‘taste of space’ was at the age of 16 when she joined the Space Trek boot camp. The boot camp was established to identify promising young females and develop them so that they can pursue a career in science. They were taught how to design, build and launch their own satellite. She admits that the theorywas very intense and confused her a bit, but when they started working on the actual satellites, it all just made sense.  Part of their training included programming and launching small satellites using high-altitude weather balloons. They were trained by satellite engineers from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Brittany says that she had always loved science and it was one of her teachers that told her to join the boot camp. She wanted to learn new things and more importantly, as someone who had already decided that she would pursue a career in science, she wanted to explore which field of science she would like to pursue. She is currently deciding on whether to pursue a career in Medicine, Chemical Engineering or Space Science.

Brittany is very passionate about encouraging and empowering women to become scientists. She says that where she comes from, females are expected to do only feminine jobs and do feminine things. However, she feels that women can do whatever they set their mind to and she refuses to be stereotyped because of her gender. She advises girls her age to never stop breaking down barriers and never let anyone put you in a stereotyped box.

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