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CCS students are ‘ready to launch’ at STARward STEM Expo 2023

January 18, 2023  

Last fall, the three winning teams of the 2022 STARward STEM Design Challenge traveled to Florida in preparation for the SpaceX CRS-26 rocket launch, which carried Cumberland County Schools (CCS) students’ winning science experiments to the International Space Station. For the second consecutive year, CCS students will vie for an opportunity to see if their design-challenge experiments will be selected to launch to the International Space Station,  during the STARward STEM Expo on Thursday, Jan. 26 from 4-7 p.m. at Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville. 


Fifty-seven student teams from nine CCS elementary and middle schools have been collaborating on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) experiments for the last several months as part of the STARward STEM program, which was developed by RTI International in partnership with CCS with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).


The STARward STEM Expo is the culminating event of the STARward STEM Design Challenge that will include student presentations of project-based learning  (PBL) work, demonstrations by STEM industry experts and the announcement of the winning student design-challenge experiments to be launched to the International Space Station later this year. The event is open to students, families, educators, and other supporters of STEM education in the Cumberland County region.


The district is proud to announce the finalists who will be competing during the expo. For a complete list of finalists by school, click here


Each team’s innovative STEM-based project will be exhibited during the expo, and from the distinguished list of finalists, three winning student design-challenge experiments will be selected to launch to the International Space Station from Kennedy Space Center during the summer of 2023. 


In addition to the student experiment exhibition and competition, expo attendees will have the opportunity to interact with cutting-edge technology, STEM industry experts and former astronaut Tony Antonelli. Antonelli, the expo’s keynote speaker, is a DBHS graduate and served in the U.S. Navy before serving as a pilot on the STS-119 and STS-132 missions to the International Space Station.


Other distinguished guests and speakers will include Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin, DoD STEM Program Specialist Dr. Holly Brown, RTI International Senior Vice President Angela Quick, and CCS Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. WRAL-TV reporter Gilbert Baez, Sr. will serve as the emcee at the expo. 


Scheduled exhibitors include the STARward STEM project primary partners RTI International, DreamUp and Emerging Technology Institute. 


STARward STEM is a three-year grant-funded program that starts with building up the effectiveness of teachers in STEM instruction. The program is empowering 300 of CCS’ premier professionals with specialized transdisciplinary project-based learning training and cutting-edge technology to ignite a passion for STEM, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills in underrepresented student populations.


For more information about STARward STEM or the expo, visit or email