Bowie Robotics Team Among the Best in the World in Satellite Design

Bowie High School has a strong presence throughout the Southwest, thanks in part of its history and alumni. Now, a group of current students will take a little piece of the South Side school to outer space.

A team of Bowie High School students earned second place in the CubeSat international satellite-design competition recently, earning them a 1,000 cubic centimeters spot in a satellite that will orbit space.

The Museum of Science Fiction CubeSat Competition, in partnership with NASA and Cornell University, named Bowie High School, along with entries from Ithaca, N.Y., and Suzhou, China, winners.

“It feels very exciting because it’s not just local or even national — it’s international, so it fills you with pride knowing you are a part of that,” Bowie student Zahit Porras said.

Porras, along with several other Robotics Club members, entered the competition after learning about it on a field trip to the University of Texas at El Paso.

The team collaborated with the university to come up with the design, working closely with professors and engineering students from the Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (CSetr) center.

The students worked with CSetr a few days a week since March to come up their design and proposal.

“We provided guidance and expert advice for the students. They are the ones doing everything,” CSetr research engineer Mike Everett said. “They were able to figure out a lot of it on their own. We just provided direction. They have learned a lot about the design process.”

At first the students didn’t realize the magnitude of the competition until they saw their school’s name alongside a team’s name from China.

“That’s when it hit them. When they saw they were listed among those other schools,” team sponsor Leticia Vasquez Loya said. “They are proud of their accomplishments. For them, it’s huge. Now they are like, ‘What can I do in engineering.'”

The UTEP and Bowie team will be awarded $10,000 toward the completion of a CubeSat — a grapefruit-sized satellite designed to perform a specific task while in orbit around the Earth. Their device will be launched into space upon completion.

These satellites usually collect data or take photos while in orbit. The Bowie and UTEP team’s CubeSat will send a manufacturing robot into space to perform basic tasks and to send data back to Earth in order to provide insight to other engineers, scientists and future researchers.

“These designs were selected based on a combination of innovation, technical feasibility, and successful articulation of a concept from science fiction,” said Mason Peck, member of the museum’s board of advisors and director of Cornell University’s Space Systems Design Studio. “I want to congratulate these young minds who displayed a mature and professional degree of technological acumen with their proposals. I’m eager to see their designs go from the drawing board to reality and up into orbit.”

Bowie student Leslie Llamas is also excited to see their design go into space. Being part of the Robotics Club and participating in the competition has cemented her decision to study engineering.

“I want to be a mechanical engineer. I hope to study at UTEP,” Llamas said.

She also hopes this competition inspires other high school girls to consider engineering as a career choice.

“I would tell other girls not to be timid and be brave if they are interested in engineering because this has been a wonderful experience,” Llamas said. “I am proud of the work we have done. It’s something very worthwhile.”