By Yingdi Xu and Marco Gouveia
Brandon Hodge is in his third year of the mechanical engineering coop program. He is currently working at the space company, Wyvern, for his co-op. Founded by former members of AlbertaSat, Wyvern is located in Edmonton and focuses primarily on earth observation imagery from satellite platforms.
Brandon has had a long-time fascination with aerospace and space exploration. When he was in high school, a presentation about AlbertaSat ignited his enthusiasm and faith to start his journey in the space industry. Brandon began by participating in the design group of AlbertaSat, an undergraduate-led design team that included many students from multiple institutions.
As a systems engineer technician on the Northern SPIRIT team, Brandon’s job is to coordinate and organize different subsystems to facilitate the integration of pre-built satellite payloads onto AlbertaSat’s in-house designed 2U satellite buses. As a matter of fact, Brandon works on a bit of everything and deals a lot with requirements regulated by various standards. He usually cooperates with others on the team to check if the requirements are met during the design phase of the mission to ensure the satellite and the payload work properly. This is also a cross-institute operation, as Brandon works alongside the students from Yukon University and Aurora Research Institute. The part of his work in AlbertaSat that Brandon enjoys most is its cutting-edge nature with a unique attractiveness.
“A lot of the things we are doing have not been done before in general. Undergraduate students making satellites is not something that has really ever been heard of. The impressive thing is that the club is mostly undergraduate students, who simultaneously have a full-time course load.”
Brandon strongly values the relationships he has built with other AlbertaSat group members. He believes that no one can make a satellite on their own and it is instead a huge team effort propelled by common interest. In his opinion, AlbertaSat is a phenomenal student group since everyone is great to work with. Brandon regarded his AlbertaSat teammates as “always helpful and willing to answer any and all questions someone might have.” Brandon also pointed out that it does not matter if someone has unique talents or skills, instead affirming that one’s ability to collaborate is what makes them special. Realistically, none of the skills to build a satellite are really taught in classes; the group prides itself on self-motivated learning. Something that makes you stand out as an AlbertaSat member is your drive to learn.
Brandon advocates that AlbertaSat offers countless opportunities for anyone who wants to get a foot into the space industry door, including those who have no prior experience, like himself. AlbertaSat helps fill this lack of experience by giving undergraduates a unique chance to work with real-world applications and allows for the ability to contribute to the overarching project. The expectations Brandon has for AlbertaSat is to expand the group’s functionality in order to become a hub for undergraduate CubeSat design and expand to a more universal design program for other university or high school students. This aim is to make work in the space industry more accessible for anyone who is as enthusiastic as an AlbertaSat member. AlbertaSat currently leads the way as a hidden space industry talent pool in Alberta.
For the balance between coursework and AlbertaSat tasks, Brandon has his own philosophy: “the way that I have had it described to me is that you are going to be 100% busy most of the time whether it’s just school or including AlbertaSat. Regardless, you are going to have no time. You are going to be busy all the time but at the same time you might as well do something you enjoy.”
Brandon has always maintained a full course load while being an AlbertaSat member. He affirms that the gained experience with AlbertaSat is much more valuable than a simple figure on his transcript. The average AlbertaSat member already knows so much more about spacecraft design than someone with a 4.0 GPA who has no practical experience. Such experiences like AlbertaSat are so much more valuable to an employer than simply a good transcript.
Brandon shared that his own experience at AlbertaSat helped him get a job with Wyvern because of the connections made at AlbertaSat. Brandon suggests that showing up, being enthusiastic, and being ready to learn are the top 3 components for anyone who wants to go far in any life path. The pointers Brandon would give to new members is to “take whatever opportunities you can, regardless of the roles or group.” These experiences are great learning opportunities and have the chance to benefit you in the future.