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STARward STEM Design Challenge Winners Announced

January 26, 2023  

Tonight, during the STARward STEM Expo at Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville, 57 student teams from nine Cumberland County elementary and middle schools competed for an opportunity to see if their design-challenge experiments would be selected to be launched to the International Space Station later this year.

Cumberland County Schools (CCS) is proud to announce the following STARward STEM Design Challenge Winners: 

"At-Large" Winner
Space Candy "Rocks" with Vitamin D    

Fourth graders Jacob Cromartie, Avery Guy, Noelle Neese, Sa'eed Register and Alexandra Sevirino from Vanstory Hills Elementary School
Teacher: Jean Pelezo 

Primary Winner
Swiss Chard

Fourth graders Gary Dixon, Nyla James Martin, Brielle McKoy and Princeton Scott from William H. Owen Elementary School
Teacher: Anayansi Young

Secondary Winner
Dr. B.C. Frankincense

Sixth graders Aubrey Hinderaker, Leena Mansour and Smridhi Palit from Seventy-First Classical Middle School
Teachers: Sylvia Beckham, Amber Fulcher, Tara Moore-Allen, Sara Nelson, Jacob Regensburger, Valerie Israel and Marisol Lopez-Willis

"At-Large" Runner Up
Brown Plastic Eaters Pestalotiopsis Microspora

Fifth graders Abram Harriel, Brittany Moreno-Torruco, Kaylee Freeman and Azuri Mosely 
Cumberland Mills Elementary School
Teacher: Barbara Cascasan

Primary Runner Up
Better Sleep In Space

Fourth graders Evalyn Shields, Nevaeh Armour, Kinterrion Brewer and Zyris Cash
Sherwood Park Elementary School
Teacher: Yulonda Corbin

Secondary Runner Up
The Essentials Project

Sixth graders Zachary Thurnher, JosV Santz, Maressa Thompson, Enoch Rogers and Pheonix Brinkley
Seventy-First Classical Middle School
Teachers: Sylvia Beckham, Amber Fulcher, Tara Moore-Allen, Sara Nelson, Jacob Regensburger, Valerie Israel and Marisol Lopez-Willis

As part of the STARward STEM program, the student teams have been collaborating on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) experiments for the last several months. The program was developed by RTI International in partnership with CCS with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

"This whole event makes me happy that people get to explore different science-related opportunities in STEM," said Alex Castro, a ninth grader at Douglas Byrd High School. "And what people don't realize is that ultimately this will benefit our community and everybody."

For the second consecutive year, the STARward STEM Expo was the culminating event of the STARward STEM Design Challenge. The event showcased 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.

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

In addition to the student experiment exhibition and competition, expo attendees had 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 included Fayetteville City Council Member Shakeyla M. Ingram, 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. served as the emcee at the expo. 

Scheduled exhibitors included 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.


CCS students intrigued by a hands-on science demonstration.The keynote speaker, Tony Antonelli, shares photos of when he serviced as a NASA Astronaut.

To see more 'out-of-this-world' moments captured during the STARward STEM Expo, click here.