KLB School Students’ Success in European Space Agency CanSat Competition

KLBSixth Form

We are immensely proud of our Year 12 teams, one of which reached the recently held national championships of the European Space Agency’s CanSat competition.

Over seven months from September 2022, and under the direction of Dr Hewitt, physics teacher at KLB, and Dr Judith Vorley, STEM ambassador, two groups of enthusiastic physics students have worked on a small-scale space project to build a working satellite within the dimensions of a canister the size of a soft drinks can. They were responsible for designing all the major subsystems of a satellite including power, temperature and pressure sensors and a radio-communication system.

The teams spent dedicated time developing their understanding of the physics behind the systems within a satellite before beginning to design their own. Students undertook specific roles within their team to design the landing system, build the container, purchase electronic equipment, apply for funding, carry out outreach, programme the software and test their satellites.

We are grateful to the organisations that responded to the team’s requests for funding and materials, or provided mentoring to the students; these included Renishaw plc, Dyson, Cameron Balloons and Noriker Power.

Throughout the year, the students produced scientific reports of their progress to be judged by a panel of technical experts. The groups undertook testing (by dropping their satellites from a drone on the school grounds) and adapted their satellite, designing multiple prototypes with the aim of completing a number of missions. They took the refined versions to a regional launch event on Salisbury Plain. Here, the can was launched from a small rocket to a height of 400m where it was released. Both satellites deployed their parachutes and transmitted data to their ground station as they fell safely to the ground.

Both KLB teams achieved distinction on the scientific design reports they submitted for the competition and one team was invited to compete in the UK final in York – one of just ten teams that made it to this stage out of over 200 entries from the UK this year.

The final involved a second launch, after which the team analysed their data and presented the results to a judging panel. The judges were particularly impressed by the KLB students’ triple parachute landing system alongside their image processing techniques. The analysis was to determine potential safe landing sites for a larger aircraft. They even had a special mention from the deputy chief of the UK space agency

In the team’s own words: “We were absolutely elated to be invited to the national championships. It was great to culminate all our efforts from the last seven months with this great opportunity in York. It was lovely to meet people from all backgrounds, connected over the mutual topic of STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths]. Athough it was hard not to progress to the international stage of the competition, if there was a prize for the team that had the most fun, it would certainly be us.

“If you are reading this and are considering applying to study STEM at universities such as Oxbridge or Imperial, CanSat is a great way to gain some fun and practical experience to bolster your personal statement.”

Dr Hewitt adds, “The team has worked tirelessly throughout the year to produce something they can be really proud of. The design and programming that went into their project was of an exceptionally high level and I believe they could each have promising careers in STEM in their future. They presented their work to a large number of judges with confidence, and certainly made KLB staff proud.”

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