UAH CanSat teams place first, second and third in the nation

group photo of Team Spaceshot members outside holding their banner

Team Spaceshot placed first in the nation. From left are team members Lucas Thelen, Aidan Barton, Steven Zelek, Hunter O'Mary, Noah Womack, Noe Poe, Haylee Winters and Gabe Whitlock.

Courtesy Space Hardware Club

Three CanSat teams from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Space Hardware Club (SHC) placed first, second and third in the nation during recent international competition in the American Astronautical Society-sponsored aerospace design and production event.

Team Spaceshot was first in the nation, while Team Star Saber finished second and Team Highwire was third. In overall competition, Team Spaceshot took eighth, while Team Star Saber was 13th and Team Highwire finished 16th.

All three teams from UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System, were composed mostly of freshmen and sophomores, and it was the first CanSat experience for everyone.

CanSat is an annual student design-build-launch competition open to teams from universities and colleges that design a space-capable CanSat with payload that is launched from a rocket and descends with a parachute. The CanSat must survive the forces incurred at launch and deployment. Launches are recorded by an onboard video camera.

Teams follow an approved competition guide during the development and construction phases and then compete against each at the end of two semesters to determine the winners. This year’s competition was June 9-12 at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

“As a team lead, I learned that it is important to create relationships among team members and boost motivation to make progress on the project,” says Haylee Winters, who led Team Spaceshot. “As an electrical team member, I learned that it is important to jump in and learn as much as you can because even if you come across something that doesn't seem relevant, it will likely come up later in the project.”

Ocean Bowling, Team Star Saber’s electrical sub-team lead and an aerospace engineering freshman from Louisville, Ky., learned about perseverance.

“The main takeaway I got from this was that it takes teamwork, time and commitment to make something even as small as the CanSat,” Bowling says.

a view inside of the CanSat showing circuits and computer parts
A peek at the circuitry inside Team Star Saber’s competition CanSat.
Courtesy Space Hardware Club

Samantha Quartuccio, Team Highwire software sub-team lead and a freshman in computer engineering from Charleston, S.C., says the CanSat experience has been one of the most rewarding for her so far.

“Not many universities have such thorough engineering programs for freshmen to experience, especially by themselves,” Quartuccio says. “It was really satisfying to see our ideas translate from paper into reality at the lab, and I can’t wait to get back in the labs and apply what we’ve learned over the course of the past year.”

Aidan Barton, Team Spaceshot’s electrical sub-team lead and an electrical engineering sophomore from Spring Hill, Ala., learned about project dedication.

“We could have spent more time working on the CanSat leading into the last month of competition,” Barton says. “Failing to do so created a massive crunch period for a few weeks before competition, which was especially difficult because many team members were also working on internships.”

Niko Duffy, Team Highwire’s team lead and a systems engineering freshman from Huntsville, says learning how to effectively communicate and integrate different ideas was a challenge.

“Although we struggled with integrating our parts in the beginning, in the end we had very good communication and succeeded because of it,” Duffy says.

All the teams overcame challenges getting over technical hurdles, time management requirements and the need for teamwork, says Tristan Carter, the SHC’s AutoSat program manager.

“By technical hurdles, I mean all the research and learning that goes into being able to make a working CanSat. Circuit design, new programming languages and software, hardware integration, fiberglass lay-up, intricacies associated with 3D printing and numerous more that are required to have a functional CanSat,” Carter says.

“As for time management, being able to balance classes, CanSat and jobs is incredibly challenging, especially when you are trying to put your best foot forward,” he says. “The biggest takeaway every year ends up being how to manage your time in a more efficient manner.”

The teams are already looking forward, Carter says.

“Many of this year’s CanSaters are excited and poised to hit next year’s competition with all of their experience and lessons learned from this year.”


Haylee Winters Team Lead Electrical Engineering Sophomore Catlettsburg, KY
Lucas Thelen Software Sub-Team Lead Computer Science Freshman New Glarus, WI
Aidan Barton Electrical Sub-Team Lead Electrical Engineering Sophomore Spring Hill, AL
Hunter Omary Electrical Team Electrical Engineering Sophomore Enterprise, AL
Noah Poe Mechanical Sub-Team Lead Mechanical Engineering Sophomore Madison, NC
Gabe Whitlock Mechanical Team Mechanical Engineering Junior Taylorsville, KY
Noah Womack Mechanical Team Mechanical Engineering Sophomore Freeport, FL
Stephen Zelek Mechanical Team Mechanical Engineering Sophomore McHenry, IL

Star Saber

Tristan McGinnis Team Lead Computer Science Freshman Wetumpka, AL
Ethan Reiland Software Sub-Team Lead Computer Science Sophomore Downingtown, PA
Ocean Bowling Electrical Sub-Team Lead Aerospace Engineering Freshman Louisville, KY
Ethan Child Electrical Team Aerospace Engineering Freshman Elko, NV
Peyton Crosby Mechanical Sub-Team Lead Mechanical Engineering Junior Wetumpka, AL
Dawson Wakefield Mechanical Team Aerospace Engineering Senior Haleyville, AL
Shobu Hasegawa Mechanical Team Aerospace Engineering Sophomore Shizuoka, Japan
Meghan Gracey Mechanical Team Aerospace Engineering Freshman Raleigh, NC


Niko Duffy Team Lead Systems Engineering Freshman Huntsville, AL
Sam Quartuccio Software Sub-Team Lead Computer Engineering Freshman Charleston, SC
Joel Barnes Software Team Aerospace Engineering Sophomore Brentwood, TN
Youri Ferraro Electrical Sub-Team Lead Electrical Engineering Sophomore Mobile, AL
Bryce Ziyenge Electrical Team Electrical Engineering Freshman Huntsville, AL
Nick McGarry Mechanical Sub-Team Lead Mechanical Engineering Freshman Louisville, KY
Connor Porthouse Mechanical Team Aerospace Engineering Freshman Baton Rouge, LA
Tony Lope Mechanical Team Physics Sophomore Newnan, GA
Zeke Kuntz Mechanical Team Aerospace Engineering Freshman Denver, CO


Dr. Richard Tantaris

Jim Steele