Air Force Plans Expansion Of StellarXplorers STEM Competition

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May 20, 2016 – StellarXplorers, an education initiative established by the Air Force Association, is a space-focused competition designed to inspire high school students toward futures in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

This year, teams from across the U.S. and Germany completed the comprehensive curriculum and competed in three qualifying rounds to earn a trip to the finals. The teams with the top 10 cumulative scores competed in the national finals during the Space Foundation’s 32nd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, which took place April 11-14.

For the final round, students were required to define an optimal satellite orbit, choose spacecraft components, and select rocket boosters to meet a stringent set of mission requirements in an intense eight-hour period. The next day, teams were required to brief their solution to a panel of experts.

“These students are the future of our nation and its space community, and we couldn’t be prouder of the way they have met every challenge we’ve set before them,” said Stephen K. Gourley of StellarXplorers.

Members of the national finalist teams had a broad set of interests and diverse backgrounds — nearly 30 percent of the finalists were female; more than half emanate from minority populations; and four of the teams came from Title 1 schools.

The National Champion was the ‘Sirius Potatoes’ team from Palos Verdes Peninsula High School of Rolling Hills Estates, California. “Star Fleet,” also of Peninsula High team, finished in second place followed by last year’s champion, Rangeview High School from Aurora, Colorado.

“StellarXplorers has broadened our vision on aerospace engineering with real life situations. Our team performed exceptionally well and the competition allowed us to learn so much more about space, satellites, and engineering,” said Regina Kim, Sirius Potatoes team captain.

The program has generated a lot of excitement and the U.S. Air Force is now planning a full national deployment of the StellarXplorers program during the 2016-2017 school year.

In her keynote address at the Space Symposium, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said, “This year, we saw StellarXplorers expand to 27 teams across the globe and there are plans to expand further in next year’s competition. So needless to say, I think this is fantastic growth; the program is really catching on.”

This year, the Air Force hopes to grow participation to at least 150 teams. They are encouraging Airmen to volunteer to mentor a team and help inspire kids to pursue a future STEM career by registering for StellarXplorers III. Registration is currently open and will remain available until October 15.

“We always encourage Airmen to get out into the local communities and mentor students through our diversity and outreach programs,” said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force STEM Advisory Council chairman. “StellarXplorers is energizing the next generation of space technologists and the Air Force is thrilled to be part of the program.”