By Senior Airman Alexa Culbert, 42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 21, 2016
Air Force Association's StellarXplorers graphic. (Courtesy photo illustration)
Maj. Gen. Roger Teague, director of space programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, presents an award to Sirius Potatoes from Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., April 14, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kevin Gooder)
The Air Force Association is striving to increase participation in their third annual StellarXplorers competition this tear by teaming up with the Air Force Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps headquarters. The new partnership will introduce the event to almost four times as many students compared to previous years.
The StellarXplorer competition is an AFA national high school space event designed to introduce youth to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM careers.
With the partnership between Air Force JROTC and AFA, the competition is now open to more than 890 Air Force JROTC units worldwide and up to 121,000 cadets. This year the AFA hopes for more than 100 teams competing, greatly increasing participation in comparison to last year’s 27 teams.
With the greater participation Air Force JROTC will bring, also comes the possibility of a more diverse demographic of competitors. Air Force JROTC is composed of 58 percent minority and 38 percent females.
Holm Center Air Force JROTC Commander Col. Bobby Woods said the competition fits well with the aviation and STEM curriculum they are already teaching in Air Force JROTC, and he is excited and proud of the partnership of the two organizations.
The students will be given access to college-level online textbooks and material on space operations to prepare them for the competition. The scenario problems involve either placing a satellite into a specific orbit, designing a satellite with a specific capability or launching a satellite on a specific launch vehicle.
A free-to-download computer simulation program, Systems Tool Kit, allows the teams to compete from their home bases until the national finals round held in Colorado.
The competition consists of three phases conducted virtually from the team’s home bases. The first phase is the qualification phase, which consists of two rounds. Each round consists of a scenario problem and a 20-question, open-book quiz. The top 30 percent of the teams will progress to the semi-finals round, where they must complete a 6-hour scenario problem. Teams that do not qualify for the semi-finals round will finish the prestige round. Then the top ten teams will advance to the national finals competition in Colorado. The top teams will travel to the competition all expenses paid.
“It is incredibly impactful when you go out and talk to these kids and just see how smart, bright and capable they are, and all they are looking for is an opportunity and the StellarXplorer is a great example of those opportunities that are out there,” said Woods.
The registration fee is $200, however the fee is waived for all schools and Air Force JROTC units that fall under the Title 1, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides financial assistance to local educational agencies and schools.
In other ways to lessen the financial burden of participating, Woods said that Air Force JROTC has set aside funds to support 50 non-Title 1 schools and units.
Registration began May 1 and goes through until October 15. For more information visit www.stellarxplorers.org.
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