The 2015 ESERO Ireland – CEIA CanSat Competition was launched today with the help of former NASA astronaut, President and Executive Director for the Centre for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) Greg Johnson. The competition offers secondary school students a unique opportunity to participate in a real space project by 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 in 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.

Irish students have achieved notable success in previous CanSat competitions, run by the European Space Agency. Last year, the winners of the national CanSat competition, a team from Crescent College Comprehensive in Limerick, succeeded in securing third place at the European CanSat finals in Norway, where their CanSat was launched by rocket to an altitude of 1km. In 2012, a team of nine students from Coláiste an Phiarsaigh in Cork won second place at the competition in the Netherlands.

Commenting on the competition, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English, said: “A key component of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is the role of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in creating high quality jobs and consolidating Ireland’s position as a true knowledge economy. It is crucial that we continue to build a pipeline of students opting for STEM related courses at third level and initiatives such as CanSat are integral in this regard.  We are seeing positive results with over 70,000 or 28% of students enrolled in Science and Engineering courses last year.”

Former NASA astronaut Greg Johnson; with Lauren Cosgrave , 5th year students at Kylemore College, Ballyfermot

Former NASA astronaut Greg Johnson; with Lauren Cosgrave , 5th year students at Kylemore College, Ballyfermot

Former NASA astronaut and President and Executive Director for the Centre for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) Greg Johnson, said: “For students, a career in the space industry can sometimes seem beyond the bounds of possibility. In Europe, there are over 30,000 employees in space manufacturing alone with a number of well-established companies based in Ireland. 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.”

The test for participating senior cycle secondary school students, working with mentors from Dublin Institute of Technology, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Cork Institute of Technology, Limerick Institute of Technology and industry partners, is to include all the major subsystems found in a satellite such as a computer, power, sensors and a communication system.

All teams are supplied with CanSat kits sponsored by leading space sector companies Arralis and ENBIO.

The CanSat is then 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. Secondary missions can be devised by individual teams and in previous years included using a GPS module to track the CanSat position and measuring wind shear using a custom built anemometer.

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.