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The CanSat project of the YesWeCan team

The CanSat project:

CanSat is a competition organized by the ESA (European Space Agency) which invites groups of students from all over Europe to design a small satellite the size of a can and launch it in the sky. During their fall, each team's mini satellite will collect different measurements. Then, they have to interpret the obtained results and come to a conclusion. The Swiss national CanSat competition (SwissCanSat) took place during the end of 2021 and the start of 2022. This first contest, organized by the HES, qualifies the winners to partake in the European competition.

Our Team:

We are a group of 6 students ages 16-17 from the class 23P of the Gymnase français de Bienne, studying Physics and Application of Mathematics as the primary subject in a bilingual class (French - German). We formed a team to compete in the SwissCanSat competition, the YesWeCan team. Two professors from our school guide us throughout the whole competition. The members of our team are visible in the image shown below.

Photo of our team:

At the front, Thomas Li, working on our second experiment (which we will explain later) and as the team's secretary, Gabriel Scheu, working on the parachute and our second experiment, and Diego Pellaud, working on the structure of our can. At the back, Loïc Mercerat, our physics teacher, Emile Sauthier, working on the software and the hardware, Tiéblen Diarra, working on the outreach program, Antoine Willemin, working on the structure and the radio communication, and finally, Eva Lehner-Heiniger, our biology teacher who helps us with our second experiment.

Our Project:

In the CanSat project, there are primary missions which are imposed to us (such as measuring pressure and altitude) and a secondary mission that we can freely choose. This latter mission helps us stand out from other teams.

In the mindset of exploring another planet and inspired by the Viking missions sent to mars, our team decided to measure the presence of life at the landing point of our satellite. Our mission consists in putting a solution rich in nutrients in a hermetically sealed sterilised test tube inside our can. After our can has landed, a pump will bring air into the system in order to let potential bacteria and living organisms have the chance to develop and spread in our solution. We have also created a depressurization system using a membrane that lets air out, but blocks liquids. To obtain our results, we will extract DNA from our solution, then carry out a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) to amplify our sample, and finally, we will do a gel electrophoresis to see if our solution contains life or not.

After having worked hours upon hours on our mini satellite, we finally launched it in the context of the SwissCanSat competition on the 4th of April 2022. It was an amazing day, and the HES provided an excellent organisation. After that, on the 30th of the same month, the awards ceremony took place. Our team, the YesWeCan team, won the award for the best SwissCanSat project. This means that our team will be representing Switzerland for the first time in the European competition, which will be held in Bologna, Italy. This will take place between the 20th and the 25th of June 2022. Until then, we are set to improve our satellite as much as possible. We are extremely proud to have this opportunity to represent Switzerland in such a big international event. Therefore, we will do our best in Bologna!