A team of University of Alberta students says attending a conference of Canada’s space industry leaders opened their eyes to career opportunities and gave them a better understanding of their own role in space technology and exploration.
Four students and one professor attended the Canadian Smallsat Symposium in Toronto Feb. 13 – 15, delivering presentations on the U of A’s AlbertaSat team and Ex-Alta 1, the cube satellite the team launched into orbit as part of an international project called QB-50 last year.
Team members were pleasantly surprised with the warm welcome they received from government agencies and industry leaders.
“The purpose of the conference is to get all of the industry players in a room together and the freshness of all those people who are embarking on new journeys—that environment is exciting to be a part of and the fact that we’re operating our own satellite means we really are part of it,” said Callie Lissina, a mechanical engineering student who is deputy project manager with AlbertaSat.
Attending the conference was important for students, the university, and industry, she said.
“It’s important for us because we get to see what’s out there in terms of careers and what the culture is like at different companies, and we get to network and pick up great technical information about space technology,” she said.
“It’s important for the university because it gets a lot of publicity. People knew we were going to be there and they were looking forward to meeting us.
“And for the industry, it’s important to them because they get to engage with the next generation proactively and they get to know students.”
Lissina said industry professionals are looking for ways to connect with the team.
“It’s not just curiosity. There’s real interest from private companies in the industry who want to get involved with us and be part of our missions.”
Katelyn Ball, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student and systems engineer with AlbertaSat, said she found support from a community of women who are playing important roles in the space industry. In a profession and industry that attracts far more men than women, Ball said it was exciting to be enthusiastically welcomed by women in the profession who “know who we are, and hold us in high regard.”
“I was talking to one systems engineer and she was saying that getting your hands dirty and actually doing things and showing you have initiative is really important,” said Ball, adding that student groups like AlbertSat create learning experiences that take classroom learning to the next level.
“This is something AlbertaSat has proven. Making the jump from designing something to actually making it, you learn so much more. You make a prototype and realize there is a blatant mistake in your calculations, and then you go back and try another iteration.”
AlbertaSat Project manager Tyler Hrynyk, a mechanical engineering student, said conference-goers were well aware of the team’s launch and were anxious to take in a presentation outlining the mission from start to finish.