WMG Academy for Young Engineers based in Coventry have beaten 13 other teams to become the UK winners after competing in the European Space Agency (ESA) competition final in Elvington Airfield near York.
The challenge, set by the ESA and run by The European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO-UK) in the UK, aims to inspire young people about space and develop the skills needed to support the future talent pipeline and our thriving space sector.
The competition encourages teams of young people to enter with a task to build a simulation of a real satellite within a soft drink can, known as a ‘CanSat’ – enabling students to have their first practical experience of a real space project. The challenge involves fitting all the major subsystems found in a satellite, such as power, sensors and a communication system, into this minimal volume whilst also selecting the mission objectives, designing the CanSat, integrating the components, testing, preparing for launch and then analysing the data.
In spite of the challenges and unavoidable delay to the competition due to COVID-19, 14 teams of students from UK schools and colleges reached the final stage after much work over the past year. Eight of these teams attended a live final which took place on 23 June at Elvington Airfield in North Yorkshire, with the other six teams who could not attend sending their CanSats to ESERO-UK to be remotely launched. The live launch arranged by Gravitilab saw successful live rocket launches of all the finalists’ CanSats.
The competition also tasks each team with a primary and secondary mission. For the primary mission each CanSat must measure air temperature and air pressure while descending after launch. The secondary mission is designed by the students themselves. WMG Academy’s team, Scobestar, saw their CanSat capture regular updates of acceleration in three axis and GPS positioning, before achieving a soft landing on the ground using an air bag mechanism that the team designed.
A judging panel from academia and the space industry selected team ‘Scobestar’ from WMG Academy for Young Engineers in Coventry as the competition winners. Team ‘CLASP’ from St Pauls School took second place, with team ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’ from Tonbridge School coming third.
A student from the winning team ‘Scobestar’ said:
"CanSat has been a fantastic experience for myself and my fellow team members. It's been a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills and work as part of an amazing team, and together, we've designed and created the UK's winning CanSat! I'm really excited to have the chance to compete in the European CanSat competition and am looking forward to working hard on the next leg of the challenge alongside the rest of my team."
Team Scobestar will now represent the UK at the International CanSat final, run by ESA in September 2021.
Becca Crawford-Richardson, ESERO Project Officer at STEM Learning, commented:
"Organising the CanSat competition is one of the best highlights of my year! Each year the students amaze us with their knowledge, skills and enthusiasm and the quality of entries this year has been phenomenal. The teams have worked so hard to overcome the setbacks and problems that the pandemic has thrown at them and have all produced brilliant projects. Everyone who took part has achieved a fantastic amount."
In addition, Matt Archer, Director of Commercial Space at the UK Space Agency said:
“Through our Spaceflight programme, the UK Space Agency provided £19,000 grant funding to extend the reach of this year’s CanSat competition and offer more schools the opportunity to participate. From next year, the first small satellites will take place from UK soil, creating new jobs and opportunities for communities across the whole of the UK. Therefore, it’s great to see so many young people taking part in this year’s CanSat programme and developing the skills needed to pursue a STEM career - and perhaps even one day going on to become the next generation of space scientists and engineers.”
The full list of schools whose teams were selected for the UK CanSat Final 2021:
Allestree Woodlands School
Alleyn's Senior School
Caroline Chisholm School
The Cathedral School
Colchester Royal Grammar School
George Watson's College
Richard Lander School
St. Columb's College
St Paul’s School x 2 teams
Townley Grammar School
WMG Academy for Young Engineers