CTE Mission: CubeSat is a national challenge to build technical skills for careers in space and beyond. The U.S. Department of Education invited high schools to bring space missions to students by designing and building CubeSat prototypes — in the classroom or at home

Any public school that is eligible to receive funding under the Carl D. Perkins Act of 2006, as amended by the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), was invited to participate in the multiphase challenge. 

The critical role of CTE

Career and Technical Education (CTE) plays an important role in developing a more competitive workforce. Technology skills are critical for success in many careers; education providers must adapt and create opportunities for applied technical learning to prepare students for 21st-century work. 

Benefits of participation

Firsthand experience that builds a wide range of hireable skills.
National recognition and potential prizes for your school.
Opportunities to collaborate with local businesses and employers.
Access to curated online resources and a network of experts.

Prizes and Sponsors

Five finalists were each awarded $5,000, as well as additional in-kind prizes donated by the following organizations: 

Finalist prizes
  • $25,000
  • 10 LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 Core Sets 
  • 10 XinaBox kits
  • Five Arduino kits 
  • Five Club for the Future Space Mail kits 
  • Arduino
  • Blue Origin
  • Chevron
  • EnduroSat
  • LEGO Education
  • Magnitude.io
  • MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative
  • XinaBox


Phase 1: Mission design

August – December, 2020

Teams used the resource hub, a curated collection of virtual resources, to develop and submit their mission proposals. No in-person collaboration or prior experience with CubeSats was required. 

The deadline for mission proposals was 5:59 p.m. ET on Friday, October 16, 2020. 

See the full list of eligible schools that submitted mission proposals.

Based on mission proposals, five finalists were selected to receive prizes and an invitation to participate in Phase 2.

Phase 2: Mission build and launch

January – May 2021

Finalists received access to expert mentorship and additional virtual resources as they built CubeSat prototypes and conducted flight events to launch their prototypes.

Following the flight events, each finalist submitted a flight report.


A cube satellite, or CubeSat, is a standardized small satellite that was invented with students in mind. This hands-on education tool can house a variety of sensors, cameras, and other instruments and can conduct a wide range of experiments (“missions”) in orbit — from identifying and tracking wild animal herds to gathering atmospheric data for weather prediction. In the process of building a CubeSat, students learn creative, collaborative, and technical skills.


Students need more opportunities to make, break, and learn by doing. Building a CubeSat prototype gives students permission to experiment with select elements of the development and launch process. CubeSat prototypes are the best way to start learning about CubeSats because they have: 

  • Less testing, technical, and regulatory requirements to meet. 
  • More accessible material options — from balsa wood to plastic.  
  • Many creative ways to launch, including but not limited to tethered balloons, high-altitude balloons, drones, amateur rockets, or small aircrafts.
  • Shorter timelines for building, testing, and launching.


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