The number-crunching was out of this world as the Edmond North StellarXplorers team competed in the international competition vying to find the best solution for sending a satellite into space.
“You are in stiff competition all weekend,” said Aerospace Science Instructor Eric Weingaertner. “It is pure determination.”
The team was selected as one of the top ten teams from 211 worldwide. While none of the top ten teams ultimately found the best solution, being selected was an honor in itself.
“It is really cool to have these skills in high school,” said senior Alex Loney, who has a desire to study aerospace engineering at Purdue University this fall.
This is the second year for the StellarXplorers program at Edmond North. Additionally, the AFJROTC program has a cybersecurity and aeronautics program along with traditional activities.
“I was much older by the time I got the skills they have at their age,” said Ernie Sanchez, Edmond North AP Physics and Robotics teacher, who helps oversee the program. “We have a special group of students.”
The goal of the space system design competition created by the Air Force Association changes each year but encompasses all aspects of system development and operation with a spacecraft and payload focus.
“You definitely have to have an interest in this,” said Edmond North Senior Michael Gaona, the student Cadet Wing Commander. “It does not get better or much more professional than this.”
StellarXplorers has been at Edmond North for two years and seven years overall.
The StellarXplorers competitions are sponsored by major corporations including Lockheed Martin and L3Harris, which see a future workforce in training.
The first day of the competition is an orientation day and they are given their mission. The next day students work on the solution. They spent eight hours crunching numbers, working with an online shareable spreadsheet to allow the team members to check each other’s work consistently. Then the third day consists of the team creating a briefing on how they came to their conclusions.
“Some of the best ideas come from students,” Weingaertner said. “We just need to stop and listen.”
Teaching life skills to the students like communication, collaboration and how to use a spreadsheet are areas of focus within the program for Sanchez and Weingaertner.
The Edmond North AFJROTC program has around 150 students and multiple programs for students to explore their varying interests. “We try to give the students as many options as possible in the AJROTC program,” Weingaertner said.
Each year the students also set community and personal goals, including two service projects and raising the average GPA.
“It is incredible what these students can do,” Sanchez said.
To learn more about the AFJROTC programs at Edmond North go to https://north.edmondschools.net/afjrotc-2/join-afjrotc/