Creative Learning Award for AmmA Centre and Armagh Observatory


Staff at Armagh Observatory and the AmmA Creative Learning Centre, Armagh, worked last summer to deliver AmmA’s Project Infinity, which involved a team of eight young people working together to design, construct and launch a weather balloon that would carry a scientific payload to gather data and imagery from the edge of space. The hard work of everyone involved in this project was rewarded on 11th June at the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure’s (DCAL’s) Claire’s Awards ceremony in W5,  in an event that celebrated achievement and outstanding impact amongst the Department’s Arms-Length Bodies and other organizations in the fields of creativity, innovation, education and lifelong learning. Project Infinity was recognized with an award from the DCAL Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, of a “Highly Commended” certificate in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) category.

The project, which was led by AmmA’s Daniel O’Reilly and Jamie Kelly, was part of a week’s Coder Dojo Bootcamp, hosted and organized by the AmmA Centre during August 2013. Armagh Observatory staff provided scientific advice and an introduction to the structure of the Earth’s atmosphere. This was followed by a tour of the Observatory and its meteorological station, and a visit to the Armagh Planetarium, led by the Observatory’s Universe-Awareness project manager, Libby McKearney, who also worked with 15 younger children at the AmmA centre on a variey of space-themed educational activities including the Earthball, observations, models and gravity in the solar system. After a week’s intensive work the Project Infinity team launched the weather balloon and its scientific payload from Emain Macha, Navan Fort, on 20th August.

The group had optimised the launch date for a safe landing not far from Armagh, but having tracked the science module all the way to its descent from near-space to a location close to Dundalk, Co. Louth, low-altitude winds blew it off course and it fell in the sea less than a mile off the coast in Dundalk Bay. Following a social media campaign it was subsequently recovered from a beach in North Wales in mid-September and later returned to the AmmA Centre.

Professor Bailey, Director of the Armagh Observatory, said: “Project Infinity made a very significant contribution the DCAL’s STEAM Agenda, for example combining key scientific and technological skills relating to the design and construction of scientific instruments and a scientific payload with the necessary practical skills need to identify, design, build and ruggedize the upper-atmosphere space vehicle in a form that would survive the rigours of its journey to near-space.”

DCAL’s Claire’s Awards recognize the work of a former member of staff in the Department and the very significant impact of the work amongst all the Department’s Arms-Length Bodies and other organizations covering various areas of education and lifelong learning.