Tarleton to host International Aeronautics Competition


Rachel Tuggle

STEPHENVILLE (December 5, 2016) – This summer Stephenville residents will once again see unidentified flying objects soaring through the sky. In June 2017, Tarleton State University is hosting the annual  CanSat competition, a real-world space system engineering contest, at the Stephenville campus.

“Some of the best engineering students in the world will be here this summer,” event sponsor and Tarleton aeronautical team sponsor Steve Merwin said. “They’ll come out of India, Spain, Rome, England, just all over. A lot of kids use this as a chance to come to the States, so they’ll tie on an extra week of travel with it.”

The American Astronautical Society and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics run CanSat. The mission for 2017 will be to simulate “a solar powered sensor payload traveling through a planetary atmosphere sampling the atmospheric composition during flight,” according to the CanSat website.

“They have NASA engineers who volunteer their time to help judge,” Merwin said. “The teams all develop this idea in their university, and then they all come together and see everybody’s take on this different idea, which is really cool.”

The competition will be held from June 9 through June 11. Safety checks and judging will occur at the Lamar Johanson Science Building. The rocket launches will be held on June 10 at the Tarleton Agricultural Center. The competition is open for the public to come and watch.

“One thing I didn’t know is that the university produces its own hay,” Merwin said. “So there are all these hay fields, which is a nice place to launch rockets. It’s kind of a weird combination; the ag school ends up being a nice place to do all this aerospace engineering.”

The CanSat contest was originally held in Burkett, Texas, but officials decided to move it because Burkett is “in the middle of nowhere.”

“We limited this [year’s competition] to 40 teams, because this is our first time doing it [in Stephenville,” Merwin said.

Although Tarleton’s aeronautical team has competed in CanSat in the past, this year they are focusing on the NASA USLI competition, so they will not compete in both.

“It’s just too much,” Merwin said.

The greatest challenge of setting up this competition has been the logistics. Students from Europe may not know how to drive, so someone will need to take them everywhere they need to go, Stephenville does not have enough hotel space for the students and other issues have arisen. But, for Merwin, interacting with the students and seeing them enjoy the contest makes it all worth it.

“It’s a lot of fun to be able to work with them [the students], see what ideas they are coming up with,” Merwin said. “It’s a blast.”


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