University of Southern Maine to organize Saturday cubesat competition 

A dozen middle and high schools will compete in the University of Southern Maine’s third annual CubeSat Design Competition on Saturday, May 27, at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington. A balloon will take the student-designed microsatellites to an altitude of approximately 120,000 ft., where they will experience the space environment for a short time. The launch will test the mission planning, engineering design and performance of the student-built cubesats.

Cubesats are a class of small cube-shaped research satellites — typically weighing less than 3 lbs — that have created a new era of space discovery and hands-on STEM education opportunities for K-12 and college students. 

“For many students, this is their first exposure to engineering and the engineering design process,” said Dr. Scott Eaton, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at USM. “Faculty at the University of Southern Maine work very closely with the teachers and students to give them the skills they need to succeed in STEM in school and beyond.” 

This year, 14 teams from 12 Maine schools will compete for the “Maine Cube Cup,” an award given to the team that designs and builds a cubesat best meeting their mission objectives. The missions are exciting and involve either conducting a science experiment or demonstrating a technology in space. Students have been working on their cubesat missions and designs since January.  

Middle school students will launch their projects around 8:30 a.m., while high school students will launch theirs around 9:30 a.m.

The event is funded by NASA and managed by the Maine Space Grant Consortium. The university is also partnering with MaxIQ Space.  

Teams competing this year are from:

Middle School

Sipayik Elementary

Maranacook Middle School

Frank H. Harrison Middle School (Yarmouth)

Bruce M. Whittier Middle School (Poland)

St. George School (Tenants Harbor)

Gorham Middle School

High School

Deering High School

Portland High School

Westbrook High School

Penobscot Valley High School (Howland)

Hall-Dale High School (Farmingdale)

Foster Career and Technical Education Center (Mt. Blue)

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 for Maine high schools. USM is also one of several institutions working collaboratively toward Maine’s ultimate goal of establishing a spaceport from which to launch satellites into orbit.