FIVEPOINT'S COMMITMENT TO INNOVATION AND EDUCATION
Students in the CubeSat STEM Program from six Irvine high schools, applaud after a successful gamma-ray test on a nano satellite at UCI Nuclear Reactor Facility.
"The CubeSat project gives students in Irvine the opportunity to pursue their STEM passion by allowing them to experience first-hand what it is like to be an engineer."
University High School students examine a 3-D printed frame of a miniature cube satellite they made in class. Irvine high school students are teaming up to build a miniature satellite, called a CubeSat.
Irvine Students: To Infinity and beyond!
A cutting-edge STEM program sends high school students in Irvine on a mission to launch a satellite into space in 2017
Terence Loose | November 27, 2016
Remember when powering a light bulb with a potato wowed your science teacher? Well, those days are long, long, really long gone. At least they are for Irvine high school students, who are working toward launching a satellite into space.
Yes, a real satellite. Yes, real space.
It’s called the CubeSat Program and it involves 25 to 30 high schoolers from each of Irvine’s six high schools. Collectively, the team is called Irvine01 and they’ve been working together since early 2016 to launch a fully functioning 30-pound nanosatellite (picture the size of a milk carton cut in half ) 350 miles high into orbit around the earth. Each high school’s team is responsible for a different part of the satellite – avionics, communication, propulsion, etc. – with each group working after school and with leading scientists in various disciplines. If all goes as planned, the CubeSat will be launched in early 2017 from somewhere in India and, once in orbit, will collect data, take pictures, and allow the students to perform orbital maneuvers and experiments.
If launching a satellite into orbit sounds expensive, there’s a good reason for that: it is. But fortunately, when it comes to STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), the Irvine community puts its wallet where its beliefs are. Irvine Public Schools Foundation (IPSF), a nonprofit group that raises money for the Irvine Unified School District, gave $150,000 in seed money to launch the project, with the hopes to raise a total of $500,000.
FivePoint Communities Management, Inc., development manager for Heritage Fields El Toro, LLC, the owner of the private development adjacent to the Orange County Great Park, contributed another $50,000 to sponsor the team from the recently opened Portola High School.
“What is so wonderful about the city of Irvine is that our leaders, school district, corporate partners, local businesses, and residents are all committed to making and keeping Irvine one of the best places to live in Orange County,” says Neda Eaton, IPSF president and CEO. “The schools are a big part of that equation, which is why it is so critical to have partners like FivePoint who understand the importance of providing the next generation with opportunities to thrive.”
Portola High School is in its first year as Irvine’s newest high school, with only freshmen currently attending. So its CubeSat team is still in the formative stages, says teacher Erin Arredondo, who will lead the program at Portola.
“The CubeSat project gives students in Irvine the opportunity to pursue their STEM passion by allowing them to experience first-hand what it is like to be an engineer,” says Arredondo. “Being a part of this project is a once in a lifetime opportunity that not only teaches students how to program and build a satellite, but it more importantly teaches them how to be resilient when faced with problems, how to manage their time effectively, and how to collaborate with other professionals from around the country,” she says. “These types of real-life experiences inspire, encourage, and challenge our students to literally reach for the stars; because with a growth mindset the stars are literally within reach!”
One of the mission-critical goals of the project is to inspire that next generation to pursue careers in STEM- related fields, according to Eaton.
“We also want to reach a wider audience and stimulate opportunities for young women and minorities in the growing STEM workforce,” she says.
The countdown to that sort of success is on in Irvine. Not only is the Ir- vine01 team culturally diverse, but also collectively it’s made up of 35 percent girls, with Irvine High School hitting 50 percent. Nationwide, similar STEM programs average only 22 percent.
The program is all-systems-go, with the students’ CubeSat recently passing a gamma-ray test at the UC Irvine nuclear reactor facility. Next up is a December vibration and thermal test, nicknamed the more descriptive “shake and bake test,” at L.A. International Airport.
“Once the CubeSat passes this test, it will be ready for integration and launch!” says Eaton, exuding the kind of enthusiasm that makes a student- launched satellite possible. In fact, the CubeSat Project represents the kind of cutting-edge, forward-thinking vision Irvine itself is renowned for.
“The Irvine CubeSat project is a game changer for STEM education in Irvine,” says Tinh Tran, STEM and engineering teacher at University High School and the man who, with two Irvine dads, first conceived the program. “The Irvine CubeSat STEM Program brings together schools, industry partners, non-profits, and others to train and inspire the next generation of innovative thinkers and STEM professionals.”
Students will get hands-on practice with everything from hardware and software challenges to electrical subsystems and data analysis. They also get a lot of equally important soft skills, Tran explains, including collaboration, professionalism, initiative, perseverance, flexibility, and meeting deadlines.
Mostly, though, they get to launch something into space – with absolutely no potatoes involved.