24 April 2015 – Working with Oxford Space Systems, students from Didcot Sixth Form College, Oxfordshire presented their group project – an antenna deployment mechanism – at the regional final of the Engineering Education Scheme (EES).
The EES is designed to provide real-life STEM challenges in the form of projects spanning 6 months for Year 12 & S5 (16-17 yr old) students. The regional EES Celebration Day for the Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire & London region was held at the RAL Space visitor centre, Harwell on 24 April. Assessors from industry and academia spent several hours quizzing the student teams and examining the hardware and project results the competing teams had brought along for the day.
The students challenge set by OSS was to breadboard and evaluate a scale replica of two-stage deployable antenna capable of detecting the VHF Automatic Identification Signals (AIS) transmitted globally by commercial shipping. Mike Lawton, OSS CEO, said, “The students have done some genuinely useful work for us. We have an improved understanding of how stored energy materials behave across a large temperature range and the slow motion video the students captured has given us a good insight into how the antenna deploys.”
Oxford Space Systems has been selected by LuxSpace (part of the OHB group) to design, develop and evaluate a next generate antenna array under an ARTES 14 development. The 100kg microsat on which the OSS antenna payload will be integrated is due for flight in 2019.
The AIS antenna presents some tough stowage and deployment challenges – and that’s where the Didcot Sixth Form College students came in. Along with OSS, over the last six months, they helped develop and test prototypes of the Hold-Down-Release Mechanism (HDRM) for the antennas. The HDRM is based on an innovative beryllium copper hinge mechanism, using stored energy.
Amongst a dozen other schools, including Eton and Harrow, presenting their own Engineering Enterprise Scheme projects, the Didcot Sixth Form College students showcased an impressive full-scale model of the AIS satellite with their active HDRM included. The event went down a storm, winning the “Best Project”, as voted for by the other teams.
When asked about their thoughts on a career as space engineer, Jordan answered, “I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I am now after doing the project.” Oliver said, “This project really ignited my interest in engineering.”
Mike Lawton declared, “It’s really important that we inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists we need to grow the UK space industry and I think that the only way to do that is to let them get their hands dirty on real engineering challenges. The fact that our team also won the Student Choice Award with a great looking satellite and deployable antenna is out of the world!”