At the beginning of May we were both proud and delighted to celebrate of the impressive achievement of a group of our Lower Sixth pupils, who became national winners of the UK CanSat Competition 2022, and will now progress to Bologna, Italy to represent the UK in the European finals in June.

The Eagles’ CanSat team was formed in late September 2021. Led by teacher Aaron Mooney, a group of six Lower Sixth pupils studying a range of science and technology based A levels came together, benefitting from their broad range of skills and interests.

‘We decided to take part in this STEM challenge due to our common interests, the challenge of the sensing conditions, communicating data and teamwork and then answering a simple question. For us, this was not simply about sending a piece of hardware one kilometre up into the sky and watching it fall to earth, but to see if a serious scientific question can be answered within a short space of time accurately.The Eagles CanSat Team

Initially the group challenged the science behind the question “Could a calculation be generated to show a life-index value that indicates if life was sustainable“. Several weeks of heated debate ensued, as they gradually unravelled how they would sense atmospheric gases as a satellite fell to the surface of the planet. It was key to the group that the sensing, calculations and ultimately the answer was indicated on their ground station by the time the satellite hit the surface. This had multiple layers of complexity. The team’s second mission was to determine the suitability of a selected planet for supporting human life on arrival and then to calculate survival, to conclude whether it warrants further study using a range of additional sensors.

Pupils defined their own roles within the group:
Jonathan – Project Manager
Alex – Hardware and Electronics
Will – Software and Transmission of Data
Amica – Data Collection and Data Analysis
Asantewaa – Data Collection and Data Analysis
William Johnson – Community, Branding and Social Media.

As part of the assessment criteria the group also needed to develop an outreach programme: social media, website, corporate identity with logo design and of course the all-important t-shirts! Pupils were delighted to received sponsorship and support from PyroScience.

‘The team of pupils put in a huge number of hours outside lessons, after school and at weekends each week to complete the paperwork, build and code the satellite and make the maths work; it paid off.  At the UK finals, (University of York) the science, maths and electronics worked, we delivered an outstanding functioning satellite and proved to a tough board of PhD Astro Physics judges that the pupils were knowledgeable, intelligent and cohesive team members. We are now on our way to the European Finals in Bologna, Italy from 20-25 June to represent the UK – a wonderful ​achievement.’ – Aaron Mooney, Teacher and Leader of the CanSat Team

The UK CanSat Competition Finals took place across three days in York at the National STEM Learning Centre. On launch day the teams launched their CanSats by small rockets to approximately 400 metres in height and collected data such as air pressure and temperature as they descended back down to their ground station.

Following their achievement at the UK CanSat Competition, Ingmar Kamalagharan (Education and Outreach Manager at the UK Space Agency) addressed the St John’s pupils: “Don’t underestimate how important this is; today you represented your school, tomorrow you represent the UK in the European Finals. The scientific question you have set and the outstanding work you have done will prove to be an incredible foundation from which to build – winning this competition will change lives”

St John’s Eagles win has recently been published on the ERESO / STEM UK website, and celebrated by many outlets such as the UK Space Agency:

‘Team Eagles wanted to use their CanSat to determine the suitability of an Exoplanet for supporting human life and to calculate survival using a range of sensors. As well as air pressure and temperature they measured Oxygen, CO2, humidity, UV light and Carbon Monoxide. Their CanSat then looked at the data collected, scored the risks and decided if the Exoplanet was suitable for further research’Click here to read more.