Finalists announced for inaugural USM Cubesat Design Competition

Maine middle and high school finalists to construct and launch high-altitude microsatellite designs

The University of Southern Maine is pleased to announce six Maine middle and high schools as finalists in the inaugural USM Cubesat Design Competition (UCDC), held virtually this spring. The finalists for UCDC 2021 are:

Grades 9-12 Finalists
Winslow High School – Solar Sail Deployment Cubesat
Falmouth High School – NAPSat: Cubesat Solar Arrays
Portland High School – MagSat 1: Magnetorquer Cubesat Attitude Control

Grades 6-8 Finalists
Lincoln Middle School – Atmospheric Monitoring Cubesat
Noble Middle School – Warming Warning: Monitoring Polar Ice Cap Melting
Maranacook Middle School – Irradiated Snot Rocket: Maine-Native Algae Growth Cubesat

(At Large)
Fryeburg Academy – Mapping Nature’s Estuaries

UCDC brings together teams of Maine students in grades 6-12 to conceptualize, plan and present original cube satellite (or “cubesat”) designs to a panel of space industry experts. Cubesats are a class of small cube-shaped research spacecraft (typically weighing less than 3 lbs.) that have created a new era of space discovery as well as hands-on STEM education opportunities for K-12 and college students.

This year, nine teams of students from twelve Maine middle and high schools focused on designing high-altitude, functioning micro-satellite missions. Each team was led by a faculty advisor from each school and mentored by a USM faculty member. The finalists will be moving on to the “build phase,” where they will construct their designs through the USM Maker Innovation Studio (MIST) using 3D printing technology and launch them via high-altitude balloon in late June, weather permitting.

In addition to the six finalists, judges recognized three teams for meritoriously completing the challenge and awarded each a UCDC 2021 memorial trophy: Fryeburg Academy, Maranacook High School, and Yarmouth High School. Fryeburg Academy will continue through the build and launch phases as an “at large” competitor; in the event another finalist is unable to complete or participate in the final event, Fryeburg Academy will take their place.

“I am really proud of the hard work and passion the students brought to this competition. They learned a number of important skills including critical thinking, the engineering design process and space mission planning which are highly sought after within our State. The USM team is very much looking forward to the stratospheric balloon launch in June and seeing their hard work in action,” said Dr. Scott Eaton, Assistant Professor Mechanical Engineering at USM, who organized the event with colleague Dr. Asheesh Ravikumar Lanba.

As Maine carves out a place for itself in the space industry, USM has been at the forefront of developing cubesat technology and cultivating STEM opportunities for local students. In the fall of 2020, USM partnered with the Maine Space Consortium to hold the first of a series of NASA-funded cubesat workshops attended by several Maine high schools. Additionally, USM faculty have various cubesat-related initiatives currently underway. USM is one of several institutions working collaboratively toward Maine’s goal of establishing a spaceport from which to launch satellites into orbit, as Maine is the only place on the eastern seaboard where this is feasible.

For more information about UCDC 2021, visit USM’s Cubesat Competition website or contact Dr. Scott Eaton.