North Allegheny JROTC cadets compete in national space engineering event | TribLIVE.com
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A team from the North Allegheny Air Force JROTC tested its space system engineering skills on a grand scale.

The Flying Tigers were one of 10 squads invited to the Air Force Association’s StellarXplorers V National Finals on April 10 through 14 in Colorado Springs.

In the competition, teams found orbits, chose parts and selected launch vehicles to meet a set of mission requirements. The teams briefed an expert panel on their work as part of their score.

The top three finishers, who were from Alabama, Maryland and New Jersey, were recognized at an awards banquet.

“This was our second year (in StellarXplorers), and we feel like we made significant progress,” North Allegheny AFJROTC chief Terry Speer said. “I am hoping that the success of this year’s team will translate into an increase in interest.”

Sophomore Kaijie “Adam” Chen, 16, of McCandless said it was an enjoyable experience.

“I am very happy with how we did,” Chen said. “There were ups and downs and I learned how tolerant some of my teammates were. The competition showed me that working as a team is really important.”

Senior Jack Hickerson, 18, of McCandless said he came to understand that communication is important.

Sophomore Mattox Tokars, 16, of Franklin Park said he got to see a lot of things and meet a lot of people.

“The other teams that were there consisted of really smart and great people,” Tokars said.

Activities included visits to the U.S. Air Force Academy and the 35th Space Symposium.

Also on the team were seniors Matt Waldo and Aditi Edlabadkar, and sophomore Alon Leshem.

Waldo was team captain.

StellarXplorers program director Stephen Gourley said the season began in October with 216 teams. There were four rounds leading to nationals.

The program is designed to inspire students to pursue STEM careers.

North Allegheny Intermediate High School principal Caitlin Ewing said watching the team not only increased her appreciation of the AFJROTC, but of space exploration.

“This experience served as a reminder that our students are hungry for opportunities to solve real world problems,” she said.

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