This past fall, high school teachers across the country worked with their students to enter the U.S. Department of Education’s Your Place in Space Challenge. The challenge was the first in the CTE Momentum series, which prepares high school students for rewarding careers and increases access to career and technical education (CTE). The Department invited high schools to submit designs for a product or service that would contribute to space missions and exploration. Dr. Amy Loyd, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, announced the challenge winners today, celebrating dedicated teachers and their innovative students. 

“With national initiatives like Raise the Bar: Lead the World and Unlocking Career Success, the Department is on a journey to ensure that all students receive an education that enables them to succeed and thrive in school — and in life. That’s why last year, we launched CTE Momentum,” said Dr. Loyd. “Please join me in congratulating the winning schools, their teachers, and their students, as we celebrate the incredible opportunities that public education has to offer.”

Meet the challenge winners

Congratulations to the Your Place in Space Challenge winners:

  • Anderson W. Clark Magnet High School in La Crescenta, California — Global Mars Navigation: An app for astronauts
  • Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina — Freeze-dried Probiotics: Decreasing gut epithelium leakage and reducing risk of food-borne illness in astronauts
  • Collierville High School in Collierville, Tennessee — Chamomile in Space: Growing food and medicine to support space exploration
  • Greater Lowell Technical High School in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts — Vocational Space Habitat: Creating viable living conditions on other planets
  • Halifax County High School in South Boston, Virginia — Plant Pods: Creating sustainable meal solutions on our way to Mars
  • Hirschi High School in Wichita Falls, Texas — AI Satellite System for Cybersecurity: Using recycled materials to prevent cyberattacks in low-earth orbit
  • Kealakehe High School in Kailua Kona, Hawaii — Space Occupation Simulators: Empowering community through a high school initiative
  • Shaker High School in Latham, New York — Hydroponics System: Producing food on Mars

In recognition of their innovative work, the winning teams will each receive $6,250 and in-kind prizes. These prizes include virtual mentorship from experts at Vast Space, Space STEM kits from MaxIQ Space, simulated space missions facilitated by Challenger Center, and facility and manufacturing tours at Blue Origin.

Exploring space careers through innovation

The space industry is expected to triple in size over the next 30 years, employing more than 1.5 million people in careers with exciting opportunities for growth. And while CTE programs offer a natural starting point for a space career, many students have struggled to see how their skills connect to the space industry.

The Your Place in Space Challenge helped students connect the dots between the skills they’re building in CTE classes and fulfilling careers. Participating students learned that the available opportunities extend far beyond astronauts and rocket scientists, with possibilities that range from athletic trainers and illustrators to food scientists and software engineers.

To enter the challenge, teachers helped their students develop and submit designs for a product or service that advances space missions and explorations. Each submission outlined a problem to solve, key design features, necessary materials, and the potential impact of the designs. Students also recorded short videos to share the rationale behind their designs. As part of their submissions, students described the skills they would learn from developing their designs and the careers in which they could apply those skills.

Expert reviewers and judges

After submissions closed on October 30, a panel of experts in CTE education, space education, and the space industry evaluated all eligible submissions. The review panel then advanced the top submissions to be scored by the following panel of judges:

  • Ali Guarneros Luna, Senior System Architect at Lockheed Martin
  • Megan McArthur, an astronaut at NASA 
  • Niteesh Elias, Director of Product Design at Honeywell Aerospace
  • Nithya Govindasamy, Senior Director of Policy at Advance CTE
  • Ted Tagami, CEO and co-founder of

After scoring the submissions against the selection criteria, the judges recommended eight winners.

Participate in the CTE Momentum series

With knowledge of the many pathways from CTE to space careers, the students who entered the Your Place in Space Challenge can take the next step in their career journeys, wherever they may lead.

Teachers who want to help their students participate in the next CTE Momentum challenge can mark their 2024-2025 calendars for the upcoming Power Your Future Challenge. This next challenge will focus on careers in clean energy.

To receive updates about the Power Your Future Challenge, sign up for the CTE Momentum newsletter.

Meet the winners of the Your Place in Space Challenge!