Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.

Name: Matthew Reid

Age Category: 13-15

Home: Sussex, UK

Project: The ArduOrbiter: a lightweight, open source satellite

When Matthew learned in science class that 2,000 satellites currently orbit the Earth, he was eager to understand the effect of such a large quantity of satellites. He set out to develop a new lightweight, open source satellite that is under 5 centimeters in size, so that he could observe the earth without overcrowding orbital space. With the money he received from his 14th birthday, he built the ArduOrbiter using existing Arduino technology and aluminum. The ArduOrbiter-1 can communicate effectively and has a long battery life. Matthew looks forward to launching his satellite and using a cluster of them to build an alternative global communications system in the future.

What was the inspiration behind your project? 

I have always been interested in space, and after playing the computer game "Kerbal Space Program," I became particularly interested in the mechanics of space flight. This led me to study orbital mechanics and develop an orbital mechanics computer program. I wondered how cool it would be to have my own satellite and remembered Elon Musk’s quote, “If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.” I started seriously researching the subject. Through this, I discovered CubeSats, which are four-inch cubes filled with electronics and sent into orbit. However, whilst these were cheaper than regular satellites, they still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop and deploy. Then I came across the relatively undeveloped satellite concept of PocketQubes. Although being much smaller than CubeSats (being only 2 inch cubes), they still appeared to cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce. I started to wonder why these satellites were so expensive, since all they had to do was provide power for their payloads and communicate with a ground station. The costs seemed unreasonable, so I decided to build my own PocketQube satellite for a fraction of the cost of traditional PocketQube satellites.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

As long as I can remember, I have been interested in science.

 On New Year’s Eve 2008, when I was eight, I remember my oldest cousin teaching me the basics of atomic theory with chopped tomatoes and cucumber. My cousin went on to get a Master’s Degree in Physics and played a significant role in developing my interest in science, physics in particular.

 Although my project may be viewed primarily as an engineering project, engineering is the practical implementation of science. My initial interest in engineering came from when, at age nine, I got a “LEGO Mindstorms” set for Christmas. This not only taught me the fundamentals of programming, but also created an interest in developing practical applications for programming which, in turn, has led to my current Space Satellite project. 

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

Google and YouTube allowed me to access all I needed to know and learn about building my own space satellite – these are essential tools for all scientists and engineers in the twenty-first century and should be utilised as much as possible. Throughout the development of my project, I was amazed by the amount of free help people from around the world were willing to give me. Be polite, take the advice, check it, use it, work hard. And if you want to do it, do it.