NASA Astronaut Launches Arralis Backed Unique Space Competition for School Students


  • Calling on Limerick secondary school students to compete
  • Teams to be supported by mentors from Limerick Institute of Technology and industry partners
  • CanSat kits to be sponsored by leading Irish space sector company Arralis

(Press Release from The 2015 ESERO Ireland – CEIA CanSat Competition was launched today with the help of former NASA astronaut and President and Executive Director for the Centre for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) Greg Johnson. The competition offers secondary school students a unique opportunity to participate in a real space project by building a CanSat – a simulation of a satellite which fits into the volume of a soft drinks can.

All of the participating teams will launch their CanSats at regional finals across Ireland next year, with the winner of the national competition going on to compete in the European final in Portugal in June 2015. The Limerick teams will be supported by mentors from Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) and industry partners. Arralis, an Irish space sector company with world-leading expertise in radio frequency, micro and millimetre-wave technology, will sponsor the CanSat kits supplied to participating teams.

Irish students have achieved notable success in previous CanSat competitions, run by the European Space Agency. Last year, the winners of the national CanSat competition, a team from Crescent College Comprehensive in Limerick succeeded in securing third place at the European CanSat finals in Norway, where their CanSat was launched by rocket to an altitude of 1km. In 2012, a team of nine students from Coláiste an Phiarsaigh in Cork won second place at the competition in the Netherlands.

Commenting on the competition, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English, said:

“A key component of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is the role of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in creating high quality jobs and consolidating Ireland’s position as a true knowledge economy. It is crucial that we continue to build a pipeline of students opting for STEM related courses at third level and initiatives such as CanSat are integral in this regard. We are seeing positive results with over 70,000 or 28% of students enrolled in Science and Engineering courses last year.”
Former NASA astronaut and President and Executive Director for the Centre for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) Greg Johnson, said:
“For students, a career in the space industry can sometimes seem beyond the bounds of possibility. In Europe, there are over 30,000 employees in space manufacturing alone with a number of well-established companies based in Ireland. The CanSat competition brings space science to life for students in a meaningful, hands-on way, giving them a taste of the skills required for this thriving industry.”

Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Strategy and Communications, Science Foundation Ireland added:

“This year it was encouraging to see an increase in the number of students opting for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in CAO first preferences. The CanSat competition offers secondary school students a unique opportunity to see the practical applications of STEM subjects in industry and exposure to the vast array of career opportunities open to STEM graduates. This in turn helps to ensure that the future pipeline of STEM graduates is protected.”

Ian Foley, Department of Electronic Engineering at Limerick Institute of Technology said:

“The CanSat competition offers students the opportunity to work in teams to achieve a common goal and implement a successful project solution – as you would in a real industrial environment. Active learning is fundamental to fostering the engineering and science skillsets required to solve real world problems within a project life cycle. We look forward to working with Limerick teams this year and building on the success of last year’s competition.”

Stephanie O’Neill, ESERO Ireland Manager, said:

“ESERO Ireland’s aim, with the assistance of the European Space Agency, is to foster the skills that are required by companies operating in the space sector at an early age. Irish teams have now enjoyed two years of success at the European CanSat competition, tackling complex design, engineering and mathematical challenges as well as the softer skills of teamwork, problem solving and communicating with the support of their mentors and gaining exposure to the exciting opportunities which a career in space science can offer.”

The test for participating senior cycle secondary school students is to include all the major subsystems found in a satellite such as a computer, power, sensors and a communication system and bring their CanSat from design stage to lift off. The CanSat is launched to an altitude of a few hundred metres by a rocket and must accomplish its primary mission – to measure temperature, air pressure, transmit the data to the ground station and achieve a safe landing. Secondary missions can be devised by individual teams and in previous years included using a GPS module to track the CanSat position and measuring wind shear using a custom built anemometer. Teams work together at all stages of the process – designing the CanSat, selecting its mission, integrating the components, testing, preparing for launch, receiving the data on the ground and then analysing and presenting the data to a panel of judges.

Schools interested in taking part in the Limerick CanSat should contact Marie Walsh, Department of Applied Science at LIT, by email to
CanSat is a joint collaboration between ESERO Ireland (European Space Education Resource Office) and Cork Electronics Industry Association (, and is co-funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme.