Student team shoots for the stars in global space competition

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CANSAT team

A team of students from Heriot-Watt University has achieved an impressive fourth place in a global competition focused on space-related topics.

The CanSat competition is unique. Asking students to develop a complex engineering project from conceptual design through to testing and system operation, followed by post-mission summary and debrief, it represents a hugely challenging test of student skills and teamwork.  

Organised by the American Astronautical Society, students create a simulation of a real satellite, integrated within the tiny volume of a soft drink can!

Testing participants’ engineering skills, teams are asked to fit all the major satellite subsystems including power, sensors, and communications into the small space. The CanSat is then launched by rocket before carrying out a scientific experiment and landing safely.

Final year student Julia Bonet, who will shortly graduate with an MEng (Distinction) in Robotics, led the Heriot-Watt team to its impressive finish. She said: “I could not have asked for a better team to work with for this year's competition. With this being our first competitive year, the pressure has been on since September 2021. But everyone’s exceptional work pushed us to an incredible fourth place which is far beyond everyone’s expectations.”

Dr Matthew W. Dunnigan, from Heriot-Watt University, was the academic supervisor. Commenting on the team’s success, he said: “We are enormously proud of our students who, under the able leadership of Julia, have achieved a top five place in this prestigious global competition.

“The team’s success is testament to their hard work and dedication throughout the process as well as the quality of the teaching and learning at Heriot-Watt University. We continue to push the boundaries of education, finding new and innovative ways to challenge and build the skills of our students.”

The Heriot-Watt University team which included Julia Bonet, Claudia Garcia Mendoza, Glen O'Connel, Connor Tierney, Nathan Burgess, Michael Wigham, Kieran Docherty, Szymon Wlodarczyk was placed fourth out of 49 teams in the finals - the highest placed UK team.

In the recently published Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022, Heriot-Watt University was ranked second in Scotland and 16th in the UK for General Engineering out of 132 institutions.