Applied Computing UNIT 2: Innovative Solutions


Space is no longer the domain of large governments or multi-billion-dollar corporations. With the introduction of technology platforms such as the Arduino microcontroller and an array of inexpensive sensors, space has become accessible to the high school classroom.  This has also occurred at a time of rapid growth in the use and deployment of nanosatellites such as CanSats and CubeSats.

According to the United Nations, the world’s population by 2050 is predicted to reach 9 billion and 11.2 billion in 2100. This means that access to water, production of food, transportation/shipping, security, and the tracking of other important assets will need to be monitored/enabled by new and emerging technologies such as nanosatellites. Applications for nanosatellites are already diversifying from Earth observation to reconnaissance missions, with new start-up companies leveraging data from nanosatellites to improve military surveillance, map mineral and agricultural resources, predict the weather, and monitor endangered species.

Program Overview

This program extends the key knowledge learnt and key skills developed in Applied Computing Unit 1 as students explore the Arduino microcontroller. Through simulating a real space mission, students will learn to develop code which controls hardware such as temperature and pressure sensors, captures data, and transmits this data wirelessly to a base station. The received data is subsequently cleaned, interpreted, and converted into a visualisation. The use of RF transmitter/receiver modules to telemeter data to a receiving station allows this area of study to connect with Unit 2 Area of Study 2 Network security.

This program supports the intention of the Unit 2 Outcome 1 Innovative Solutions area of study, by providing students with the opportunity to explore the emerging field of nanosatellites in the context of a real-world space mission. Students will learn about the modular composition of satellites, as they learn to program an Arduino microcontroller to capture (i.e. simulate an atmospheric sounding mission) and telemeter data from their nanosatellite to a base station (i.e. laptop).

Students will have the opportunity to:

  • describe the components of a digital system, in this case a nanosatellite
  • examine the functions and capabilities of a nanosatellite through programming an Arduino microcontroller (connected to temperature/pressure sensors and RF transmitter/receiver modules)
  • explore techniques for collecting data and developing an innovative solution
  • explain techniques for validating and testing their solutions
  • discuss the goals and objectives of digital systems
  • explain the economic issues involving emerging technologies such as nanosatellites


Topic Suggested Pre-Visit ideas/knowledge to incorporate into your curriculum
Key Knowledge Unit 2 Area of Study 1

·      components of digital systems

·      types of digital devices used for a range of current and emerging applications such as smart phones, smart refrigerators and virtual assistants

·      emerging trends in digital systems and the importance of innovation to organisations, such as improving efficiency and effectiveness of customer service and maintaining competitiveness

·      functions and capabilities of digital systems used by individuals and organisations, such as assistive technologies, financial services, global positioning system (GPS) devices, robotics and traffic management

Unit 1 Area of Study 1

·     interpretation of information for communication and decision making

·     factors affecting the quality of data and information, such as accuracy, bias, integrity, relevance and reliability

·     types and purposes of data visualisations suitable for educating, entertaining, informing and persuading audiences

Unit 1 Area of Study 2

·     functions and capabilities of key hardware and software components of digital systems required for processing, storing and communicating data and information

·     characteristics of data types

·     naming conventions for solution elements such as files, functions, methods and variables

·     processing features of a programming language

·     characteristics of internal documentation

Key Skills ·     analyse selected data, and discuss the relationships and patterns identified

·     use software, and select and apply functions, formats, conventions, data validation and testing techniques to efficiently manipulate data and create data visualisations

·     use a range of data types and data structures

·     develop a software solution using appropriate processing features of a programming language

·     design and apply suitable testing and debugging techniques using appropriate test data

Key Terms Problem-solving methodology, digital systems, emerging technologies, innovative solutions, microcontrollers, nanosatellites, primary and secondary data and information, data visualisations, proof of concept, prototype.




Topic Suggested Post-Visit ideas to incorporate into your curriculum
Assessment Task Suitable tasks for assessment may be selected from the following:

·      a presentation (oral, multimedia, visual) of an innovative solution

·      a written report

·      an annotated visual report

·      a case study with structured questions