Two Galway schools through to national final of Europe-wide CanSat competition

Galway secondary school teams who competed in this year’s CanSat regional final hosted by GMIT pictured with their industry mentors, GMIT engineering lecturers, and student mentors. Photo: Aengus McMahon.

Galway secondary school teams who competed in this year’s CanSat regional final hosted by GMIT pictured with their industry mentors, GMIT engineering lecturers, and student mentors. Photo: Aengus McMahon.

Two Galway teams — Team Sputnikí Mhóinín from Galway Community College, Galway, and Team Sat AthaRi from GairmScoil Mhuire, Athenry — were named joint winners in the regional final of the CanSat competition last week. The competition, run by the European Space Agency, sees school teams throughout Europe compete to create and launch miniature satellites.

The two secondary school teams will now compete at the national final, which will take place in Birr on April 18.

The annual CanSat competition sees secondary school pupils work in teams to build and launch miniature satellites the size and shape of a standard soft drinks can. It involves computer hardware and programming with wireless communication and mechanical design, as well as the successful launch and retrieval of the satellites.

The regional competition was organised by GMIT’s departments of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and Electronic and Electrical Engineering. CanSat is co-ordinated in Ireland by Science Foundation Ireland’s ESERO group.

“CanSat is an example of the kind of practical technology project that our GMIT engineering and science students thrive on,” said Dr Paul O’Dowd of GMIT’s Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department. “They get a chance to build something tangible and see it work. GMIT wishes the winners the very best of luck in the Irish competition in Birr next month, and hope that one of them will go on to represent Ireland in the European CanSat final in Portugal in June 2015.”

Eight teams from six schools throughout Galway took part in this year’s competition. Pupils launched their satellites from GMIT hexacopters, collected and analysed data, and presented their mission findings to a panel of judges.

Each team was mentored by an engineer from industry and a GMIT engineering student. Joint winners Sputnikí Mhóinín were mentored by Liam McDermott from Avaya and Darragh Creaven from GMIT. Team Sat AthaRi’s mentor was Jonathan Hopper from Schneider-Electric, along with Ronan Watkins and Darragh Moran of GMIT.

The other schools involved in this year’s competition were Dunmore Community College, Dominican College, Taylor’s Hill, St Jarlath’s in Tuam, and Calasanctius College, Oranmore. Support from industry was also provided by John Tynan, Olivia Donnellan, and Fergal O’Malley from Valeo Vision Systems, Manuel Desbonnet from HP, and Declan McAndrew of Celtrak.

The judges were Peter Waldron of Intel, Shannon, Stephanie O’Neill of Science Foundation Ireland, and Brenda Cooper of Horner APG.

“Special credit is due to the busy engineers who fitted the CanSat event into their schedules, and the motivated teachers who took on this challenging project,” said Emer Cahill of GMIT’s Electronic and Electrical Engineering Department. “The students, lecturers, and industry mentors have helped the pupils along since October.”

The other GMIT electronic and energy engineering students who mentored schools as part of their civic engagement activities were David Kenny, Daniel Wasil, Kevin Smith, Shane Hennelly, and Aaron Joyce.

A team in GMIT tracked the progress of the schools using online video conferences. The engineering school also provided hands-on and online video training modules. Cork Electronic Industry Alliance provided a training day for teachers as part of the support package, and each school team visited its industry mentor’s site and made presentations to company staff.

Dr Carina Ginty, GMIT’s schools liaison officer, said: “There was great fun in GMIT as the students battled against last minute hitches, came up with ingenious solutions, and to put together presentations of an exceptionally high standard. They were a credit to their schools who will be rightly proud of them.”

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