Government Hill among 6 schools across the globe chosen for satellite internet program
An Anchorage grade school will be sending its ideas and art into space next week.
On Thursday, students at Government Hill Elementary in Anchorage discussed aerospace, engineering and technology with executives and engineers from global communications company OneWeb.
"We chose six schools in some of the most remote places in the world," OneWeb associate mechanical engineer Katelyn Sweeney said. "Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Honduras, Ecuador, Rwanda and here in Alaska. Anchorage is such a melting pot for Alaska. There are so many ethnic groups and so many different backgrounds here. Government Hill has such a diverse student body and we thought they would be a great spearhead for this mission."
OneWeb’s primary objective is to launch a Low Earth Orbit constellation of over 600 satellites to provide internet access globally, affording online services to hundreds of millions of potential users residing in places without existing broadband access, which includes rural Alaska.
"We're trying to connect the unconnected," OneWeb senior mechanical engineer Kevin Macko said. "People in distant places are blocked by mountains, lakes and things like that. They can't get the fibers to their communities. So the next best way is through satellites."
Satellites are nothing new to Alaska.
"Lots of companies have satellites," GCI vice president of corporate communication Heather Handyside said. "We provide service across the state with fiber, microwave and satellite. Television services have satellites as do cell phone providers."
OneWeb says their approach to satellite internet is different: to use lower orbits in the North and South pole regions.
"We have lower orbit satellites," Macko said. "They will orbit the earth at 1,200 kilometers. Typical internet satellites orbit at 36,000 kilometers; that's 30 times farther away."
The difference in distance is speed: shorter distances mean faster speeds of communication.
OneWeb will launch its first satellites into the earth's orbit next week. As part of One Web's "Empower Humanity" campaign, Government Hill Elementary School fifth grade Spanish immersion students get to help name and decorate satellites.
They chose the name "Nanuq, oso polar" — meaning polar bear, polar bear, spelled in Yupik to represent the state of Alaska and in Spanish to represent the Spanish immersion program.
"It's a great opportunity, I'm really excited for our students," Government Hill Elementary principal Mandy Clark said. "I'm excited to see the students faces and to hear their inquiries. It increases their view of culture and gives them a lot of opportunities to connect to other Spanish speaking countries."
As being chosen as of the six global schools, Government Hill also receives free internet from OneWeb.
Editor's note: GCI is the parent company of KTVA.
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