Team works on nanosatellite research at Saint Joseph's

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STANDISH — Saint Joseph’s College hosted an out-of-this-world event in early August with the Maine Space Grant Consortium. 

Based in Augusta, the consortium is funded through NASA and encourages Maine students to participate in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. 

Included in that work is the Maine Research Internships for Teachers and Students program, also know as MERITS, which provides high school juniors from Maine with a paid research internship over the summer. 

The group holds an annual “Celebration Day” to showcase the work done by MERITS students, and this year’s event was at Saint Joseph’s on Aug. 3. 

Jana Hall, the controller and director of education programs for the consortium, said this was the first time the celebration day has been held at the college in Standish in the program’s 10-year history. Ten students participated in the program this year. 

That team grew out of a $20,000 NASA grant the school received through the consortium aimed at introducing satellite science and building nanosatellite prototypes in physics courses at the college. 

“We are one of the first colleges in the state working on this; we’re on the ground floor with NASA,” said Saint Joseph’s science professor Ryan Dorland. “The goal is to connect the sensor boxes together wirelessly and gather fine-grained data from a dispersed area all at once. Then we can connect to small satellites to gather data in remote locations where no cell or radio signal exists. Designing a small satellite is part of this project. We won’t be building the satellite, but we will complete a conceptual design and build a prototype.”

Annie deCastro of Falmouth High School worked as part of the nanosatellite research team. She said she already does robotics work at school and noted that the “electronics and trouble-shooting skills overlap a lot with what I’m doing here at Saint Joseph’s College.” 

Working with the nanosatellite research team this summer “gives me hands-on experience and an opportunity to confirm my interest in STEM,” she said.

Other institutions that hosted MERITS students this year, included the University of Maine, University of Southern Maine, Colby College, the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, RLC Engineering, and Mobility Technologies, according to the college.. 

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Members of the Saint Joseph’s College nanosatellite research team, from left, Annie deCastro, Kevin McWilliams, Dr. Ryan Dorland and Dr. Steve Jury.

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