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  • Aine O’Reilly

Student Space-Design competition provides unique opportunity the Future of Science

Virginia Tech offers a wide range of focuses for engineering students to pursue specific fields that cater to their interests and skills. Diverse specialities undoubtedly strengthen Virginia Tech’s robust engineering program, yet each student has a common factor that unites them all: the ability to dream big. The CanSat competition arranged by the American Astronautical Society (AAS) allows students from both across the nation and internationally to achieve exactly that. The annual competition is made up of entirely student competitors. Many college students can recall designs they have created as well as competitions they have participated in throughout the span of their education. The CanSat competition offers students a particularly unique opportunity to participate in a project that takes a design from a concept to a finished and functional product. In fact, it is described as a “design-buildlaunch” competition, which emphasizes its goals.

This particular competition is composed of teams who collaborate to design and construct a “spacetype system”. The designing and building periods span two semesters, allowing the students adequate time to develop and solidify their creativity and skills into one design. At the conclusion of the two semester period, the teams put their hard work to the test. Each group faces off head-to-head to determine whose design will come out on top.

Each individual team must contribute the finances necessary to construct the design as well as any travel accommodations, only further proving the team’s dedication to the competition. They are not left entirely up to their own resources though, as AAS provides every competing team with their very own rocket to be used as an integral piece of their design. This is certainly not a privilege many other competitions feature, making the CanSat competition a sought-after educational experience.

What space design competition that features rockets would be complete without its very own launch? To further solidify the CanSat competition as a truly unique opportunity, every year there are a series of days set aside for a launch. This year, the launch will take place in Blacksburg, Virginia at Virginia Tech from June 8-11.

The name CanSat refers to the “soda can” sized satellite that each team designs and launches. After being released from the rocket, the device known as the “reentry container” must return to Earth with the assistance of a parachute. The science vehicle must be intact, and each vehicle is incomplete until a singular large egg is put inside. Upon landing, the final deciding factor is determined when it is revealed whether or not the egg remains undamaged.

For many students, the competition offers more than just an opportunity to interact with a subject they are passionate about. In a video produced by CanSat, Jares Doverspike, a student from the University of Alabama Huntsville, said that the competition was “training the next generation of scientists, as well as giving you life skills that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.” Anthony McCourt, a student from Arizona State University, found the element of collaboration to be the most fulfilling, saying that “as an aerospace engineer, I got to work with mechanical engineers, I learned a lot of electrical, a lot of computer science stuff that I just don’t get inside of the classroom, as well as getting to network with people from all across the world.”

Since its beginning in 2004, the AAS CanSat competition has been inspiring students as well as the engineering world. Through its ability to foster teamwork, creativity, problem solving, and persistence, the CanSat competition allows students and the future of engineering to reach new heights.

Archives @WUVT Studio
Archives @WUVT Studio

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