Puerto Rico’s First CubeSat: Multidisciplinary Research Project to Attract STEM Students into the Area of Aerospace Systems

The purpose of this paper is to present an interdisciplinary research project using Cubesats to attract engineering students to the area of aerospace systems.

This project has provided student the experience of focusing on a single technical design while also teaching the students to coordinate work between groups from various departments at other universities [10]. It has motivated undergraduate students in the mechanical, electrical and computer engineering and computer science programs. Currently there are 42 students working directly on the cubesat project. It is expected that undergraduate students interested in pursuing a master’s degree will base their thesis on this project. The majority of students that have worked in CubeSat related projects in the past have been employed by companies such as: Texas Instruments Honewell, Infotech aerospace services, Florida Turbine, Lockeed Martin and NASA. Other students have continued their studies at a PhD level at institutions such as: Michigan State University, Ohio State University and University of Minnesota among other high ranking universities.

 Another beneficial impact obtained from this project is the experience students obtain from working with relevant software in the field of engineering: MatLab, Simulink, Multisim LabView among others. These different software tools help simulate stress and space conditions that cannot be easily verified with theoretical calculations. In the ECE of the UPRM, power electronics is generally applied to the subjects of motor control and renewable energy. This project has broadened the subject of power electronics applications in the field of aerospace. A variety of DC/DC converters topologies, microcontrollers (MSP430, ArduinoUno, Propeller, etc.) and MPPT techniques have been explored in order to meet the CubeSats specific needs. Another added incentive from this project is improving the students’ hands-on skills and laboratory capabilities [11]. Students learn Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design and manufacturing. Once the PCB is manufactured, components are soldered and the CubeSats EPS is the end result. The final product is tested with the use of a solar array simulator that aids in emulating the CubeSats solar panels. Testing the constructed EPS involves verifying its ability to regulate both 5V and 3.3V output voltages as well as performing the MPPT.