A team of students from Athlone have won a Europe wide competition to design and fly a miniature drinks-can sized satellite.

The teenagers from Marist College won the overall award at the European CanSat Finals in the Azores at the weekend - the first time an Irish team has taken the top spot.

The students have to design and build the satellite, which must be capable of carrying out a number of functions after it is deployed from a rocket at altitude and floats back to Earth on a parachute.

The team from Athlone were representing Ireland after they won the national Cansat finals earlier this year and beat 17 other teams representing other European countries.

The European Space Agency organised competition is run here in Ireland by the European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO) and CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, with funding from the European Space Agency and Science Foundation Ireland.

"It is a testimony to all their hard work and dedication and a fantastic achievement for the students, staff, mentors and everyone involved," said Alan Giltinan national coordinator of CanSat Ireland about the Irish students' victory.

"By winning the European Final, the students have highlighted that Ireland has an up and coming student base well equipped for STEM and SPACE careers, such as the emerging New Space sector, while showcasing Ireland's emerging workforce as a powerful competitor."

In 2016 the Irish team came third and in 2017 it came second.

"The lads are absolutely delighted," said Marist College teacher Georgina Clear who accompanied the students to the finals.

"Everyone here at Marist College is incredibly proud of what they've achieved." 

"Even in the height of the competition, the spirit of cooperation and comradery between the teams was inspiring. It really drove home the collaborative nature of these kind of enterprises, and how it can bring people from all backgrounds together."