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Reading students design and make a satellite

A group of Engineering students from Reading College and University Centre have taken part in a regional heat of a competition.

Engineering Level 3 students Gareth Vermeulen, Mohamed Mkala and Magadalene Keimbe launch their CanSat

Weronika Furmanek, Magdalene Keimbe, Mohamed Mkala and Gareth Vermeulen are all studying an Engineering Level 3 Extended Diploma at the King’s Road campus. They recently participated in the CanSat Regional Launch at COTEC in Wiltshire. The CanSat competition provides students with the opportunity to have practical experience working on a small-scale space project.

For the competition, the students had to design, construct and launch a small satellite, shaped like a soda can, called a CanSat. During the regional launch, the students’ CanSat was inserted into a rocket and shot 2-600m up in the air. The CanSat then deployed from the rocket.

The satellite was equipped with sensors to gather data on atmospheric conditions, including air temperature and pressure. It was also programmed to perform tasks such as transmitting data to the ground station and deploying a parachute.

The team's CanSat with deployed parachute

Each of the students took on different roles during the project. Weronika oversaw mechanical design which involved with materials and structure to use to keep the mechanism intact. Magdalene managed the electrical side which involved designing the circuit, connecting different sensors, camera and GPS elements. Gareth managed the landing and recovery system which included designing the parachute and calculating how big it needed to be, while Mohamed programmed the circuit.

The competition is accredited by the Engineering Development Trust. Each of the students who attended the regional launch were eligible for a Silver Industrial Cadet award.

Taking part in the competition provided the students with hands-on experience in satellite design, construction, and programming, fostering interest in STEM subjects through real-world applications and contributing to scientific research on atmospheric conditions and environmental monitoring. It also helped the students to develop professional skills, including teamwork and time management.

The tasks that the students performed in this project produced evidence for the completion of one of the units required for their Engineering Level 3 Extended Diploma. The students will also be able to include it in their university applications.

Group picture, left to right, Magdalene Keimbe, Mohamed Mkala and Gareth Vermeulen

Mohamed Mkala, 21, from Newbury, was one of the students involved in the competition.

He said: “It was an interesting and engaging experience in a very friendly environment.

“We had a successful launch, including the landing and recovery. We need to work on the computer that goes inside the CanSat so we can collect readings and data.

“It’s given me an idea of what real-life engineering projects are going to be like. I learnt to meet deadlines, manage a team and develop my participation skills.”

Group photo, left to right, Jopaul Kariyathi, Engineering Lecturer at Activate Learning, Engineering Level 3 students Gareth Vermeulen, Mohamed Mkala and Magadalene Keimbe

Jopaul Kariyathi, Engineering Lecturer at Activate Learning, said: “Congratulations to the students for taking part in the CanSat 2024 regional heat. I am proud of our students for their dedication and achievements.

“They successfully launched a parachute and the CanSat they designed. It was an unforgettable experience for both the learners and myself as their educator.

“The CanSat competition provides students with a valuable opportunity to engage in practical work on a small-scale space project, serving as an excellent platform for enhancing their interest in STEM subjects.

“The skills acquired during this process are essential for personal development and future career paths. It’s crucial to remember that failure offers valuable learning opportunities, so there’s no need to fear making mistakes.”

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