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Best Private School, K-8

St. Thomas More Cathedral School

You might think that grade school isn’t rocket science, but the 415 students at St. Thomas More would disagree—vehemently. For the last two years, they’ve been working on “CubeSat,” a project that aims to make them the first pre-K to eighth-grade school to launch a satellite into space.

The project began in 2012, when computer teacher Melissa Pore approached the school principal with a question: “I have a great project: Do you want to launch a CubeSat?”

Principal Eleanor McCormack responded, “I really do!” And only then stopped to ask, “What is it?”

A CubeSat is a miniature satellite that typically has a volume of one liter. Researchers at Cal-Tech and Stanford University developed the first CubeSat prototypes in 1999. Many high schools and colleges have since adopted the specifications to perform experiments in space exploration. But so far no grade schools.

That will soon change now that each student at St. Thomas More has been equipped with a mission badge and an assignment. As of November, the students had designed an antenna, assembled the satellite’s payload, and Skyped with NASA Goddard scientists. Next, they’ll use a CubeSat model to practice downloading images from space.

Class sizes at the school are small, with an average of 18 to 22 students. In other science projects this year, the middle-schoolers have learned animation techniques and the third-graders have watched sea turtle eggs hatch via a live feed from North Carolina. The 4-inch-square CubeSat is scheduled to launch on April 1.

–L.M.

105 North Thomas St., Arlington, 703-528-6781, www.stmschool.org


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