14:04 PM

Teams from Calif., Minn., S.D. Headed to AFA National STEM Competitions

Three cadet teams from the California, Minnesota and South Dakota wings will be competing next month in the national finals of two Air Force Association STEM education competitions — the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition and StellarXplorers, the National High School Space Challenge.

CyberPatriot, now in its 11th year, will hold its national finals April 8-10 in Baltimore. The national finals for StellarXplorers, in its fifth year, are set for April 10-13 in Colorado Springs, during the 35th Space Symposium.

Competing in CyberPatriot will be the California Wing’s Fullerton Composite Squadron 56 and the South Dakota Wing’s Big Sioux Composite squadron.The Minnesota Wing’s Anoka Composite Squadron will compete in Colorado Springs. The team is new to the StellarXplorers national finals but is participating in the overall competition for the second year.

The Big Sioux unit is marking its return to the national finals for a fifth year after qualifying for the championship round from 2012-2015, including a second-place overall finish in 2015, a Networking Finals victory in 2012 and a Forensics Competition in 2013.

Fullerton squadron cadets first reached the national finals last year, when two different teams from the unit qualified.

The CyberPatriot competition puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing a small company’s network. Teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services in a six-hour period.

The Big Sioux squadron, based in Brookings, South Dakota, is commanded by Maj. Elliott Filler and the team’s coach is Capt. Tyler Gross, a former CyberPatriot participant who went to the national finals in 2014 and 2015. This is the eighth year Gross has been involved in CyberPatriot as a participant, mentor or coach.

Big Sioux team members are:

  • Cadet Lt. Col. Annabelle Klosterman
  • Cadet Capt. Austen King (team captain)
  • Cadet 1st Lt. Isaiah Klosterman
  • Cadet Airman 1st Class Jeremiah Jorenby.

​ All but Jorenby, who’s in his first year of competition, have been on the team for three years.


This is the second consecutive year the Fullerton squadron’s Team Valour has made the CyberPatriot national finals. The squadron is commanded by Capt. Doug Miller and the team’s coach is 1st Lt. Brian Vu.

Fullerton members are:

  • Cadet Capt. Daniel Hayase (team captain)
  • Cadet 1st Lt. Kayla Kim
  • Cadet Chief Master Sgts. Chaeeun KimEsther Kwon and Rachel Lee
  • Cadet Staff Sgt. Thomas Hoang.

All but Lee competed in the finals last year.

Civil Air Patrol competes in the All Service Division of CyberPatriot, which includes junior ROTC teams for each of the military services as well as the Naval Sea Cadets. CAP accounted for 540 of the 1,245 All Service teams in the past year.

CAP teams have finished first nationally three times – in 2011, when a Florida Wing entry took the title, and in 2012 and 2017, when the crown went to the Colorado Springs Cadet Squadron. In addition, the California Wing’s Beach Cites Cadet Squadron 107 won the inaugural Middle School Division competition in 2014.

StellarXplorers has 10 teams in its national finals, and CAP will be represented for the third straight year. CAP had 15 StellarXplorers teams competing this year, with two of its other teams — the New Jersey Wing’s Capt. Bud Jackson Composite Squadron and the Utah Wing’s Blackhawk Cadet Squadron — being regional winners.

StellarXplorers supplies a self-contained academic/education component accessed online as a curriculum supplement, as well as specific training in the use of system simulation software Systems Tool Kit (STK). Competing teams are asked for their solutions to a typical space design problem, such as orbit determination, satellite component selection and launch vehicle planning, as outlined in a scenario describing the system’s mission and constraints.

The Anoka squadron, based in Blaine, Minnesota, is commanded by Capt. Patrick Wolfgram. The team director is Maj. Mary Albright, who also directs the squadron’s CyberPatriot teams.

Anoka team members are:

  • Cadet 2nd Lt. Yelizar Dergachev (team co-captain)
  • Cadet Chief Master Sgts. Michael Belair (team co-captain) and Jordan Norwood
  • Cadet Staff Sgt. Hannah Tepley
  • Cadet Tech. Sgt. Sydney Norwood.

Belair, Dergachev and Jordan Norwood are second-year competitors while Sydney Norwood and Tepley are first-year participants.