KLB students reach new heights with their own satellite at CanSat

Year 12 physics students from Katharine Lady Berkeley’s recently competed in the CanSat competition.

Since September of last year, two groups of students have been working on a small-scale space project to build a working satellite within the dimensions of a canister the size of a soft drink can.

With help from KLB physics teacher Dr Hewitt and STEM ambassador Judith Vorley, students designed all the major subsystems of a satellite including power, temperature and pressure sensors and a radio-communication system.

One team was even invited to compete in the UK final in York, one of only ten teams selected from over 200 entries from the UK this year.

The final involved a launch, followed by data analysis and presentation to a judging panel. 

The KLB students’ triple parachute landing system, as well as their image processing techniques, particularly impressed the judges. 

The team was even given a special mention by the deputy chief of the UK space agency. 

A spokesperson for the KLB team said: “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. 

“Although 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 said: “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.”

Before the competition, both teams spent time developing their understanding of the physics behind the systems within a satellite before beginning to design their own. 

Students undertook 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.

Throughout the year, the students produced scientific reports of their progress to be judged by a panel of technical experts. 

The groups tested their satellites by dropping them from a drone on the school grounds and adapted them, designing multiple prototypes with the goal of completing a number of missions. 

They took the refined versions to Salisbury Plain for a regional launch event. 

The can was launched from a small rocket to a height of 400 metres before being released. As they fell safely to the ground, both satellites deployed their parachutes and transmitted data to their ground stations.

Both KLB teams achieved distinction on the scientific design reports they submitted for the competition. 

One team was then invited for the national final held in York.

KLB say they are also grateful to the organisations that responded to the team’s requests for funding and materials, or provided mentoring to the students – including Renishaw plc, Dyson, Cameron Balloons and Noriker Power.

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