08:00 AM

Ore. Wing Team Returning to StellarXplorers National Finals

One Civil Air Patrol cadet team has earned a return trip to the national finals of the Air Force Association's StellarXplorers IV competition, set for April 18-20 at the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

The Oregon Wing’s Aurora Composite Squadron 56 team, based in Portland, is one of 10 national finalists in the national STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) competition, which is in its fourth year. The 2017-2018 competition involved 180 high school teams from 31 states and three overseas locations.

The Aurora squadron has made it to the national finals both years it’s participated.


“Congratulations to you for the fine work you have already done,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP’s national commander. “Thanks for representing CAP so well.”

Using Systems Took Kit (STK) from Analytical Graphics, the StellarXplorers program is open to all high school students. The competition is designed to inspire and attract students to pursue STEM careers through hands-on learning about technology by exercising critical thinking skills and emphasizing teamwork.

Teams are provided a self-contained academic/education component accessed online as a curriculum supplement, as well as specific training in the use of system simulation software, STK.

From October through March, the teams progress through three qualifying rounds and a semifinalist round via a challenging space system design competition involving all aspects of system development and operation with a spacecraft/payload focus.

The Aurora team's adult director, Maj. Carl Knox, who also coaches the squadron's CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Security Competition team, is proud of the cadets. With three returning cadets and two new cadets, including the one selected as team captain, Knox said the team has learned the most important aspect of this space-themed, problem-solving program: “Read and understand directions before ever beginning.”

In his role as director, rather than coach, Knox is instructed to provide educational assignments, training and guidance, as well as help develop team esprit de corps. The cadets are guided toward implementing their own team problem-solving skills during the competition.

Members of this year’s Aurora team are:

  • Cadet Chief Master Sgts. Jareck Jellison and Luke Van Sickle, team captain;
  • Cadet Senior Master Sgts. Rhett Miller and Peyton Reed; and
  • Cadet Tech. Sgt. Douglas Clayton.

Clayton, Jellison and Miller are second-year team members; Jellison also competed on the squadron’s CyberPatriot team. Reed and Van Sickle are first-year members.

Joining the team at the national competition, as he did for last year’s competition, will be 2nd Lt. Henry Miller, the squadron’s finance officer.

The finalists receive an all-expenses paid trip to the Space Foundation’s 34th annual Space Symposium for the national competition.

Knox feels his team is “up to the task” to work as a cohesive team at the finals and bring home a first-time national title for CAP.

“We are all rooting for you,” added Smith.