PORTLAND — A Belfast Area High School team is among nine Maine high school teams to be named finalists in the 2022 University of Southern Maine Cube Sat Design Competition.

Cube satellites, or “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.

The 2022 USM CubeSat Design Competition finalists are:

  • Maranacook Middle School, led by faculty adviser Jean Roesner (four students)
  • Noble Middle School, led by faculty adviser Christa Bi (eight students)
  • Falmouth Middle School, led by faculty adviser Ethan Whited (thirteen students)
  • Belfast High School “Team Belfast One,” led by faculty adviser David Thomas (nine students)
  • Brunswick High School, led by faculty adviser Kait Ostrov (seven students)
  • Deering High School, led by faculty adviser Cyle Davenport (two students)
  • Lee Academy, led by faculty adviser Stephen Kennedy (four students)
  • Falmouth High School, led by faculty adviser John Kraljic (four students)
  • Westbrook High School, led by faculty adviser Adam Wolf (four students)

Led by USM engineering faculty members Dr. Scott J. Eaton and Dr. Asheesh Ravikumar Lanba, the USM CubeSat Design Competition brings together teams of middle and high school students from across Maine for a fun, engaging and educational competition. Teams compete to design and, if chosen as finalists, build and launch functional high-altitude cube satellites.

The event has swelled in popularity since its inaugural year in 2021, with the total number of teams doubling to 20 this year, for a total of 120 student participants. Teams come from across the state, as far north as Lee Academy and as far south as Berwick. The competition is funded by the Maine Space Grant Consortium and the University of Southern Maine.

“The participants are learning critical STEM and leadership skills to help them become future leaders in science and engineering in a fun and engaging way,” said Dr. Scott Eaton, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at USM and organizer of the competition.

“A major highlight of this year’s program included workshops led by retired NASA optical engineer Gary Golnik a week before the historic launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in late December 2021. We have been tracking the JWST ever since!” Eatonsaid.

David Thomas, faculty adviser for the Belfast Area High School participants, described the competition as “an awesome opportunity and a chance to build and test our CubeSat.”

Each team is provided with a 3D-printed CubeSat chassis designed and manufactured onsite in Portland by the University of Southern Maine’s Maker Innovation Studio. Teams were also provided an Arduino programming-based CubeSat kit (a $100 value) and 15 hours of virtual instruction on space science and technology, engineering design, team building, leadership, project management, mission planning, and Arduino hardware programming.

Guest educators included current and former NASA engineers and scientists Garrett Skrobot (NASA Launch Services), Gary Golnik (James Webb Space Telescope optical engineer) and Andrew Klesh (NASA CubeSat engineer).

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, according to a press release. Beginning in 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.

USM is one of several institutions working collaboratively toward Maine’s ultimate 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.

Finalists will build and launch their designs in early June 2022. For more information about the competition, visit usm.maine.edu/college-of-science-technology-health/usm-CubeSat-design-competition-ucdc-2022 or contact Dr. Scott Eaton at scott.eaton@maine.edu.