My summer challenges and beyond

Hello! My name is Laima Anna Dalbiņa. I am a bachelor’s student in computer science at the University of Tartu. 

Students always talk about how they spent their summers. I’m going to do the same, but I promise that mine really was a special one this year. From all of the exciting chores and experiences, some of my summer activities included taking a barge trip with space scientists and taking over the social media of an entire institute. 

I spent my summer as an intern at Tartu Observatory. My tasks were mainly related to project management, event organisation, communication, and dissemination of information through social media. During the initial weeks, my task was to manage Tartu Observatory’s Instagram account.

I introduced the internship activities of students at the observatory. For example, there was a two-day foosball tournament which was organized by interns themselves. 

Also during this summer, many interns were able to join the ESTCube-2 team developing the second Estonian student satellite. As the launch is planned next year, the students are actively working on various subsystems: the on-board computer, tele-communication, electrical power, star tracker, cameras and solar panels. This grows the students’ interest in a space-related project and motivates them to become space engineers.

As a part of the ESTCube team, I got to take part in different activities. The staff of Tartu Observatory and summer interns could travel on the annual barge trip as well as have regular sauna evenings. Outside of volunteering hours, I could contribute to the ESTCube project, as programming is my specialization. I helped with the development of the graphical user interface and serial communication software for the Helmholtz coil driver. 

The Helmholtz coil is a device for producing a region of nearly uniform magnetic field. It consists of three pairs of identical circular magnetic coils that are placed symmetrically, with one on each side of the experimental area along three axes.

The Helmholtz coil will be used to cancel out Earth’s magnetic field, producing a region with a magnetic field intensity much closer to zero. In addition, a uniform magnetic field can be produced for simulating Earth’s magnetic field around the device in various directions.  Such a field can be used for testing various devices that depend on the magnetic field, like magnetometers.

My main volunteering task during these two months was to organize a student conference to conclude the summer program, which started from preparing the agenda for the conference and ended with making the certificates for participants. It was fascinating to find out what level of planning it takes to organize a two-day event for 40 participants. 

The event consisted of students’ presentations and two social events. One of them was a rocket-building workshop, hosted by the SPARK HUB, which in my opinion is very suitable for future engineers. During the presentations, I had the chance to hear about other students’ work. 

Okay, addressing the elephant in the room: why would a computer science student manage projects or handle social media? Well, Tartu Observatory is the reason why I am studying at the University of Tartu in the first place.

Before university, I participated in the Science Task Force project (Teadusmalev) which is meant for high school students. It was during that tenure that I needed to figure out my future plans, and I was inspired to pursue a degree in Tartu.

But doing an internship in a field that lies outside my comfort zone is not the only challenge I’ve taken upon myself recently. I think the biggest one is studying in a foreign language in a different country. With just one year of Estonian language courses, I undertook the challenge of studying full-time in Estonian.

On the other hand, I think that challenging yourself is important. I believe it is the only way to growth and fulfillment. Every summer, starting from the first year of high school, I have taken up some tasks in order to fulfill my need for knowledge and new experiences. And the challenge of this summer, being a volunteer within the project, has given me a chance to gain knowledge of the ins and outs of project management. 

The reason why I got to explore a summer full of possibilities is found in two simple acronyms: IVY and SpaceTEM.

Interreg Volunteer Youth” (IVY) is an initiative to offer the possibility to young people aged 18-30 to serve as volunteers in cross-border, transnational or interregional programmes and related projects.

SpaceTEM is an Estonian-Latvian project which aims to initiate the development of NewSpace industry in Estonia and Latvia through a series of mutual activities. SpaceTEM connects Estonian and Latvian students, entrepreneurs, universities, and even policy makers in the field of space technology. 

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