Title’s in the can for pupils

Milngavie Academy Cansat WInners
Milngavie Academy Cansat WInners

FUTURE engineers from Bearsden Academy have won Scotland’s first schools satellite competition.

Only seven teams made it to last Wedneday’s finals held at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh - the Scottish centre for design and production of telescopes and astronomical technology.

The pupils were set the task of designing and building a mini-satellite in a soft drinks can for the Cansat contest which is sponsored by Fistral Training and Consultancy Ltd.

They were launched from a small plane and the students used wireless equipment and laptops to monitor and record information before preparing a report for presentation to a panel of expert judges.

Bearsden’s Alpha Team, made up of sixth year pupils Ryan Mitchell, Drew Cowan, Caitlin Chalmers, Grant McConnachie, Matthew Morris, Findlay MacRae, Peter Medows, Dominic Laing and Rebecca Mackenzie, won despite their satellite getting stuck up a tree after its parachute-assisted descent over Strathaven Airfield in Lanarkshire.

They will now travel to Andoya Island, Norway, to represent Scotland in the European Final from April 22 to 26 with their teacher Richard Ford.

Their travel costs - £600 for each student - will be raised by a community fundraising drive, using prizes, including a mountain bike donated by Barr’s Irn-Bru, who supplied the drinks cans for the experiment. The European Space Agency will meet the cost of food and accommodation.

Competition organiser, Dr Paul Lyden, said: “Our aim was to encourage students to become interested in science and physics and to opt for the type of university courses that will equip them for careers with companies engaged in Scotland’s emerging space-related industries.

“Bearsden’s entry was excellent on all fronts. They demonstrated good project management process and teamwork plus excellent outreach activity.

“Their ‘rover’ satellite deployed as it was designed to do, but did not rove very far as it was stuck in a tree.

“The students recovered it from the branches and were able to use the information from it to compile a report which impressed the judges who considered that, as a mission, it was most likely to win the European final.”

One of the team members, Findlay MacRae (17), from Bearsden, said: “It took us five months to build the satellite with help from our teacher. Our first mission - to measure the temperature and air pressure as the can descended from a microlite glider at Strathaven airfield - didn’t go quite as planned but we successfully rescued it. It’s been a very challenging task but good fun as well.”