Galway students compete in space competition

Former NASA astronaut Greg Johnson at the launch of the 2015 ESERO Ireland - CEIA CanSat competition

Students from eight Galway schools are reaching for the stars – by participating in a space project that will be led by a former NASA astronaut.

They will each work on building a CanSat – a simulation of a satellite which fits into the volume of a soft drinks can.

All of the participating teams will launch their CanSats at regional finals across Ireland next year, with the winner of the national competition going on to compete in the European final in Portugal in June 2015.

There are projects from schools in Galway city, Tuam, Dunmore, Athenry, Oranmore and Carraroe and they will be mentored by GMIT, as well as industry partners including HP, Valeo Vision Systems, Avaya, Schneider-Electric  and CelTrak.

The ESERO Ireland CEIA CanSat Competition – to give it its full title – also has the input of former NASA astronaut and President and Executive Director for the Centre for the Advancement of Science in Space Greg Johnson.

The Galway county entries include Team Sat AthaRi from GairmScoil Mhuire, Athenry; CanCun from Calasanctius College, Oranmore; Recycling Rhino and Visualise, both from St Jarlath’s, Tuam; Re’CAN’aissance from Dunmore Community College, and CanSat Scc from Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiarain Secondary School, Carraroe.

The Galway line-up is completed by three city schools – Sputnikí Mhóinín from Galway Community College; Team Electric and Team Tasnac, both from Dominican College, Taylor’s Hill, and the Satellite Sisters from Mercy Convent, Galway.

GMIT competition organiser, Dr Paul O’Dowd, explained that CanSat taught students new skills in electronics, programming, sensors and mechanical design.

“These core science and engineering skills, and what they learn about  project management, teamwork and communication, will benefit them as they move on to third level education,” he said.

The challenge for students is to include all the major subsystems found in a satellite such as a computer, power, sensors and a communication system and to bring their CanSat from design stage to lift off.

The CanSat is launched to an altitude of a few hundred metres by a rocket and must accomplish its primary mission – to measure temperature, air pressure, transmit the data to the ground station and achieve a safe landing.

Teams work together at all stages of the process – designing the CanSat, selecting its mission, integrating the components, testing, preparing for launch, receiving the data on the ground and then analysing and presenting the data to a panel of judges.

Former NASA astronaut and President and Executive Director for the Centre for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) Greg Johnson was delighted to be involved.

“The CanSat competition brings space science to life for students in a meaningful, hands-on way, giving them a taste of the skills required for this thriving industry,” he said.