Winners Crowned at AFA’s StellarXplorers V National Finals Competition

Members of the “Jets” from Madison, Ala., begin their analysis of the mission scenario they have to solve at the National Finals of AFA’s National High School Space Challenge. The “Jets” topped the competition, becoming National Champions. Staff photo by Richard Wendt.

The Air Force Association’s StellarXplorers program recognized the winners of the fifth season of its National High School Space Challenge at an April 14 Awards Banquet in Colorado Springs, Colo.

StellarXplorers V began in October 2018 with 216 registered teams. Six months later, after five rounds of competition, the “Jets” of James Clemens High School (Madison, Ala.) were named the 2019 National Champions. The “Tahsin Machine” of Great Mills High School (Great Mills, Md.) took second place; “LANTZ” from Bergen County Technical High School (Teterboro, N.J.) placed third.

“AFA is thrilled that each year the StellarXplorers National Finals Competition brings even greater excitement and passion from our brilliant competitors,” said AFA President, retired Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright. “We stand in amazement as our students gain more skills applicable in STEM fields. The partnerships we have formed with our sponsors continue to have a great impact on STEM education, and we thank them for their support.”

United Launch Alliance (ULA) and the USAF STEM Program jointly awarded $31,000 in educational grants to the teams of StellarXplorers V. Grants are awarded to each member of the first place, runner-up, and third place teams.

“We greatly appreciate the support of our sponsors, for without them, StellarXplorers could not offer students a glimpse of the kinds of challenges we face that space systems might solve,” Stephen Gourley, StellarXplorers program director, said. “The number of opportunities and threats in space need the technical and creative talents all the participants have demonstrated. We couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments.”

StellarXplorers is an AFA program aimed at inspiring and motivating students to pursue education and careers in STEM fields using space system engineering as the means. To date, almost half of the participants are under-represented minorities; over a third are female, a testament to the exciting and engaging nature of space and the competition. This past season, Harris Foundation, USAF STEM, ULA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, DynCorp Int’l, and SpaceX sponsored the competition, along with the Educational Alliance of AGI, Space Foundation, and CEI. Registration is currently open on the website to teams of 12- to 18-year-old students for the sixth season (2019-2020 academic year).