12:58 PM

Ore. Unit Reaches National STEM Competition Finals for 3rd Time

The Oregon Wing’s Aurora Composite Squadron has again earned a national finalist berth at the Air Force Association’s national STEM competition, StellarXplorers.

This is the Aurora squadron’s fourth year as a contestant and third year in the 10-team finals. This year’s competition included 213 high school teams, with 13 representing Civil Air Patrol.

The Aurora team’s adult director, Maj. Carl Knox, who also coaches the squadron’s CyberPatriot team, is very proud of the cadets. "With three returning members and one new cadet, they are a true team,” Knox said.

“They have learned to work together, to take on big challenges in small bites. They recognize that they each come with a different skill set. StellarXplorers gave them the chance to learn and use this,” he said.

As director, Knox is responsible for providing educational assignments, training and guidance, as well as helping develop team esprit de corps.

The cadets are guided toward implementing their own team problem-solving skills during the competition.

 The team members are:

  • Cadet Maj. Rhett Miller
  • Cadet 1st Lts. Colton Swift and Luke Van Sickle
  • Cadet 2nd Lt. Joshua Vanrenterghem

Miller is a fourth-year team member and also competes in CyberPatriot. Swift and Van Sickle are second-year team members. Vanrenterghem is competing for the first time.

Now in its sixth year, StellarXplorers is designed to inspire and attract high school students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics education careers through hands-on learning by exercising critical thinking skills and emphasizing teamwork. The competing teams provide a solution to a typical space design problem, such as orbit determination using AGI’s Systems Took Kit (STK), satellite component selection and launch vehicle planning.

The end result is realistic solutions to real-world problems using space system design and operations models.

From October through March, teams progress through three qualifying rounds and a semifinal round via a space system design competition involving all aspects of system development and operation with a spacecraft/payload focus. The national finalist teams receive an all-expenses paid trip to the Houston Space Center.

The awards banquet will be held April 22.

The team wishes to thank the following sponsors for their support this season: Willamette Aviation, Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, Start to Finish Roofing and Mentor Graphics.