This is mission control. Welcome home.

From Feb. 9 to Feb. 11, the Maclay Student Astronaut Challenge (SAC) team competed in the annual SAC competition at Kennedy Space Center. The high school team consisted of captain Rachel Bethke, seniors Isabel McDaniel, Teresa Morgado, juniors Maria Boulos, Sophia Krizner and sophomore Megan Vegas. Over three days, these six female students deeply engaged in the STEM area as they competed in four distinct events: Space Science Design Challenge, Aerospace Engineering Challenge, Landing Simulation Challenge and Space Flight Simulation Challenge. 

“It was a lot of fun,” McDaniel said. “It was a great learning experience especially because I am usually more like a humanity person, so being in a team that was mostly math and science was a great way to branch out and learn different subjects.”

In the design challenge, students presented an infographic on lunar landing selection based on extensive research and a mailbox design for young kids to send postcards, which then flew into space. In the engineering challenge, two groups of three team members, given different information, had to escape a breakout room. In the landing challenge, one person simulated landing while another person worked on monitoring and communication. Finally, the flight simulation challenge required students to simulate the entire flight process, from takeoff to landing. Prior to all of these events, the team spent many hours working on research, presentation and practice on a variety of aerospace-related skills.

“We didn’t know how we were going to do and we didn’t have any high expectations, but the students always had a very positive attitude,” SAC club sponsor Joe Kupiszewski said. “There was no bickering or fighting. They worked as a team.”

The team placed in all of the events and reached the finals in landing and simulation. The final result was first in landing, second in engineering and third in design and simulation, which led to the team’s winning of first place overall. 

“We thought we were going to go and do really bad, but we ended up very well,” Vegas said. “We were all so happy. We hadn’t expected to win.”

In addition to the high school team, Maclay’s middle school SAC team also competed from Feb. 6 to Feb. 8 and placed first in engineering and design.