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OSSTP’s Build-A-Sat team teaches 799 kids about satellites with hands-on educational kits

Sep 29, 2023

Undergraduate researchers have been developing an educational kit for 4th-8th grade students

Since September 2022, the Olin Satellite + Spectrum Technology & Policy (OSSTP) Group  has been developing their “Build-A-Sat Kit,” an educational kit designed to spread knowledge and excitement about the world of satellites to 4th-8th grade students. The team is led by Lillian Shoemaker ‘25, and consists of Stephanie Cho ‘25, Angela Huang ‘26, and OSSTP postdoc Bernard Adjei-Frimpong. Over the past year, the team has worked hard to assemble and refine a comprehensive Build-A-Sat lesson plan, which includes a fun informational pamphlet for students to design their own mission, components for students to build their own small satellites (fig. 1), and supplementary resources for educators to conduct an accompanying introduction-to-satellites classroom lesson. The kit is designed to foster fun and creative educational sessions within classrooms around the world. 

Figure 1: Student Satellite Designs

By September 2023, the team will have reached 799 students across 6 U.S. states and the city of Accra in Ghana (fig. 2).

Figure 2: Map of Build-A-Sat Kit Lessons

The educational kit (fig. 3) includes:

  • A Mission Manual, coloring book style, to teach students about satellite components

  • A Mission Profile Sheet, mad-libs-style, to enable students to design their own satellite mission

  • An Introduction Sheet to explain the different steps within the kit and introduce the team (fig. 4)

  • Cardstock Component Sheets to allow students to cut out, color, and build their very own Small Satellite (SmallSat) models

Figure 3: Build-A-Sat Kit Pieces

The teacher resources include:

  • An annotated Mission Manual for reading aloud in lessons

  • A Teacher Resources document listing the different steps in the session and offering extra information included in conjunction with the Mission Manual

  • An Orbit Poster to help students visualize the various orbit types and atmosphere layers in the introductory part of the lesson (fig. 5)

Figure 5: Teacher Resource Orbit Poster

In the summer of 2023, the OSSTP lab teamed up with Emmy-nominated media, science communicator, and engineer Emily Calandrelli, also known as “TheSpaceGal”, to feature the kit for sale on her online store.

Although the kit and accompanying teacher resources are in distribution, the group isn’t done with their mission yet. They hope to run even more sessions this academic year, set up teacher workshops, and develop the infrastructure to eventually turn the kit into a non-profit organization with the goal of using proceeds from sales to support kit accessibility for kids in underprivileged and rural areas.

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