How an Inoperative CubeSat Still Holds STEM Lessons

The STMSat-1 as it was deployed from the space station, shown here as the leading nanosatellite. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — In December 2015, Gabe MacPhail, a seventh grader at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, Virginia, travelled to Florida along with 100 other members of the school’s community to watch as the fourth Orbital-ATK Cygnus Commercial Resupply Service lifted into orbit atop an Atlas V rocket aimed toward the International Space Station.

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First CubeSat Built by an Elementary School Deployed into Space

A student from St. Thomas More Cathedral School holds the STMSat-1 CubeSat. (Credit: St. Thomas More Cathedral School)
A student from St. Thomas More Cathedral School holds the STMSat-1 CubeSat. (Credit: St. Thomas More Cathedral School)

ARLINGTON, Va. (NASA PR) — In 2012, the students from St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, Virginia lined up in the shape of a space shuttle in the school parking lot and witnessed the flyover of the Space Shuttle Discovery as it was being retired to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. This awe-inspiring vision was an inspiration to the entire school and a catalyst for them to literally reach for the stars. Thus beginning their quest to build a small satellite, called a CubeSat, that would engage students around the world in Earth observations.

Over the next three years, all 400 pre-kindergarten through eight grade students participated in the design, construction and testing of their small satellite. Through this hands-on, inquiry based learning activity the students conducted real world engineering and will operate the St. Thomas More (STM)Sat-1, the first CubeSat built by elementary school students to be deployed in space.

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