Reaching For The Stars At Florida Prep

Led by Lt Col Dean Fitzgerald, the AFJROTC StellarXplorers team is one of just 120 teams, with less than 700 students nationwide competing in this national competition. The team members are Michal Kolaczewski, Robert Kammerer, Isaiah Schwartz and Ryan Mangra. 

Early competition activities take place locally and include: education and training to prepare the team, two practice rounds, and three online competition qualification rounds to identify top teams for the finals. The finalists will receive an expense-paid trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the Championship round, tour of the Space Foundation’s Space Symposium, and Awards Dinner.

Created by the Air Force Association (AFA), StellarXplorers is designed to inspire and motivate high school students and their educators to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through a challenging, space system design competition.

Building on AFA’s successful CyberPatriot National Cyber Education Program, StellarXplorers will make an additional and significant positive contribution to STEM education across the nation. The program is made possible through the support of the Air Force Research Laboratory STEM Outreach Office; Analytical Graphics, Inc.; Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc.; OrbitalATK Inc.; and the Space Foundation. For more information about StellarXplorers, go to

Blog #3 Posted 2.20.2018

This was it, our final round in the competition. We had a more complicated scenario than ever before, but we could still power through. Our mission here was to pick and modify a rocket for a specific satellite. The mission sounds easy at first, but things became much more complicated once we actually got into it. We had to take into account many variables like weight, lift, acoustic levels, size of the satellite, launch windows, and more. We spent a lot of time on Google Sheets, documenting the different capabilities of each rocket, and eventually coming to the conclusion that the “Nostromo” rocket was the best suited for the job. After picking our rocket, we also had to take a quiz on components of a rocket such as fuel and engine types, their trajectories during launch, etc. After the competition, we got our scores back. It turned out that the “Nostromo” rocket was not the best rocket we could have chosen, despite our calculations, and that affected our points greatly. Unfortunately, we ended up getting a low score of 60.523. Even though we didn’t get the best score, we still tried our best to find the most capable rocket and at least we can say that.

Quotes from our students:


My experience with StellarXplorers was very new thing for me. I really enjoyed it and I'd love to do it next year with our group, D.P.E.


StellarXplorers was a great experience for all of us; we have come a long way and all learned a lot about space exploration and all of its beauty.  


Basically, we are superior.  We may not have made it to the final round, but that was because of a tiny fault that we will watch out for next time around.  With our utterly superb team, I have no doubt, we will legitimately destroy competitors next time around.  With our group being Michael, Robert, Isaiah, and I, I would be ecstatic to do this again. Lastly, I have a personal quote to represent our magnificence.  On behalf of all members of the D.P.E StellarXplorers team we don't strive to be the best, we are the best.


Blog #2 Posted 12.7.2017

This was our second practice round, and it was very different from anything we have seen before. Instead of designing the orbit for satellites, this time we were designing the satellite itself. We had to pick different combinations of three components to add to the satellite: a camera, data storage, and downlink transmitter.

There were different versions of each component, some better, some worse. The better ones would cost and weigh more, which could lead to problems since we had a budget of about $1.6 million to buy all of the components, and the three components’ collective mass cannot exceed 200 kilograms. We did many calculations until we got to the best combination of the three we could find.

Our combination was pretty effective, since we tied for 12th place with various other teams.

While we could have done better, I do think we did well for our first time doing this new type of scenario. Hopefully we do just as well next time, which will be a qualifying round.

Blog #1 Posted 11.7.2017

The Stellar Explorers team consists of Ryan Mangra (9th grade), Michael Kolaczewski (10th grade), Robert Kammerer (11th grade), and Isaiah Schwartz (9th grade). We started at 9:00. We had 6 hours to do a test and complete a scenario in which we had to place a Satellite in a specific orbit from a program on the computer. Robert and Michael worked on the test while Ryan, Nathaniel and I started on the scenario. Michael and Robert were doing well on the test, but we had many problems with the scenario -the largest one being that it was our first time actually using the program properly, so we were learning as we went along. Problem after problem, we eventually got to a point where we understood the program well enough to complete the scenario.

At this point the test was finished and we were all gathered around the computer. Since we finally knew how to work the program correctly and were actually able to work on the scenario, we were no longer experimenting with the different buttons and instead crunching numbers over and over again for a few hours until we got what looked to be the best and most efficient orbit for the satellite. This took a lot of work; cooperation was vital in our success. Luckily, we had no problems with each other and worked together with little trouble in terms of arguing and disagreement. As a result, our score was 89.964, and the average score for all participants was 59.9. We did pretty good for our first time, although it was just a practice run. Next time we meet up again, it will be an actual competition. 

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