Introduction to CanSat


CanSatLogoI’ve been fortunate to become involved with the CanSat competition in Ireland this year.  I’m playing the part of Industry Mentor to a team of students from Gairmscoile Mhuire, Athenry, Co. Galway.  Our team have called themselves Gairmsat.

The CanSat competition is a pan-European schools competition, sponsored by the European Space Agency.  The goal of the competition is that school students (typically transition year students, or similar age) produce and launch a CanSat.  A CanSat is a simulation of a real satellite, contained within the volume of a 330ml soft-drink can.  The Primary Mission of the CanSat is to remotely measure temperature and pressure, and transmit this data to a ground station (typically a laptop).  In addition to a computer (Arduino Uno micro-controller), radio communications module, sensors and power supply, the CanSat will need a parachute to land safely after launch from high altitude (e.g. from a rocket, balloon or plane).

As well as designing, building and testing the CanSat, a major part of the CanSat competition requires the student teams to analyse and present their data (and other work) to an audience.

The Secondary Mission for CanSat can be chosen by the team.  Once size and weight constraints are not breached, the effort is only limited by imagination.  Previous teams have chosen topics such as, determining the exact location of the CanSat during descent using accelerometer and/or GPS modules, landing at a pre-determined location using steerable parachutes, deploying an experiment outside of the CanSat (e.g. monitor CO2 concentration), etc.

I hope to blog in coming weeks about some of the challenges we’ve encountered, and some of the solutions we’ve developed.

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