CanSat Can Do! Top Co-ed Day School in South East


Last week, the RGS CanSat team (composed of six Fifth Form to Upper Sixth Form students) travelled to York to participate in the UK CanSat finals.

CanSat is an annual competition run by the European Space agency in which groups of school students aim to design and produce a satellite-like device that can fit into a standard 33cl soft drinks can. A successful project includes design, electronic engineering, programming and public outreach and aims to simulate real engineering projects.

All the CanSats had to fulfil the basic criteria of collecting and recording temperature and pressure data during a 20 second, 120 metre descent. However, after that the teams had free reign in setting a secondary mission. The RGS team decided to create a can that would be able to help rescue people who were stranded in remote locations: places which are difficult to reach promptly by emergency services.

The team began work on their CanSat in October and since then the design of each feature has gone through many iterations and significant alterations. The final design included technically impressive features such a mode switching mechanism triggered by the tension of the parachute cord, a video feed, custom built printed circuit boards and motorised wheels. It used its wheels to move based on remote instructions from the ground station and they also gave him the loving nickname of Thomas. Unfortunately, after the final launch the team discovered that although the wheels responded to the controls and turned after impact, they were not large enough to move the CanSat across the muddy field. Additionally, the team did not receive temperature and pressure data from their CanSat as it was a very windy day and it was blown far away from them. However, as they brought it closer, they found that the data was transmitting as intended; this proved that their electronics were operating correctly, and that it was the size of their antenna that was to blame.

Yet the team was not discouraged by the difficulties they had during launch, but instead used it as a learning opportunity. Immediately new designs were discussed and by the final presentation the next day some of the major problems were addressed with viable solutions. The entire project was marked by a panel of industry experts including the UK Space Agency, Manchester University and European Space Agency. Teams were assessed on four criteria: teamwork, technical achievement, outreach and educational value. The team really focussed on linking their presentation to the criteria and spent the majority of their last day in York working on their public speaking. So, when it finally came to their final presentation, the team did a fabulous job and managed to secure 3rd place and the fantastic achievement of being the top co-educational day school in the South East. They also gained special commendation for their outreach program in which they visited three local primary schools and gave STEM based assemblies.

A very well done to the whole team for their great performance and we look forward to seeing next year’s entry!

Ellie Kim

Lower Sixth Form

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