Meet the Your Place in Space Challenge Winners

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High school teachers across the country worked with their students this past fall to enter the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department’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). Through the Your Place in Space Challenge, teachers helped their students develop and submit designs for a product or service that advances space missions and explorations.

Dr. Amy Loyd, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, announced the 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 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.”

Expert reviewers and judges

A panel of experts evaluated all eligible submissions, advancing the top submissions to be scored by the following 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.

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.

Participate in the CTE Momentum series

Teachers and students interested 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, visit and subscribe to the series newsletter.

The Transformative Influence of Academic Advisors

As a college student in the early 2000s, I was fortunate to have an academic advisor to guide me as I pursued learning opportunities, faced challenges, and explored career goals.

Now, as a researcher of academic advising and former post-secondary advisor, I’m sharing my experience to shed light on what advisors do, help students connect with their advisors – and maybe even inspire some future academic advisors!

What is an academic advisor?

Academic advisors fill many roles, but primarily provide guidance, care, and support to students as they navigate their academic journey – from setting & achieving educational, career, and life goals, to ensuring a meaningful learning experience.

I came to see academic advisors as symbols of empowerment who could positively influence the life trajectories of advisees and assist them in their own journeys of self-discovery.

What can an academic advisor do?

Originally, I thought academic advisors mainly assisted students with understanding degree requirements and selecting classes. Today, academic advisors perform many essential responsibilities to serve their advisees (Bermea et al., 2023) like:

  • Recruitment and Registration: Support registration for new and current students while recruiting prospective students.
  • Teaching and Learning: Use reflective pedagogies to teach students strategies for academic, personal, and career success.
  • Coaching and Development: Support advisees’ academic coaching & career development, including goal setting and planning.
  • Intervention and Support: Monitor students’ progression towards graduation and educational goals, with outreach and intervention to keep them on track.
  • Wellness and Well-Being: Help students navigate unexpected challenges and connect them with institutional resources & supports.

What are the benefits of being an academic advisor?

I find my advising work to be incredibly rewarding, with benefits like:

  • Personal Fulfillment: From helping them overcome challenges, to seeing them succeed academically and achieve their goals, it’s deeply fulfilling work.
  • Building Relationships: My work allows me to build meaningful connections with students, understanding their individual needs, aspirations, and challenges.
  • Positive Impact on Campus Culture: Firsthand, I see how effective advising creates a positive culture for students, faculty, staff, and the broader campus community. When students succeed, we all succeed!

How do I prepare to become an academic advisor?

My advisees often ask me how to become an academic advisor – no surprise given that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2023), the demand for advisors is expected to increase over the next decade. Reflecting on my experience, here are a few suggestions:

  • Develop Your Interpersonal Competencies: Focus on improving communication, active listening, cultural humility, and empathy skills to connect with students and provide meaningful and culturally congruent guidance.
  • Gain Practical Experience: Becoming a peer advisor or mentor allows you to gain hands-on experience advising fellow students & addressing unique challenges.
  • Study Academic Advising: Earning a certificate or degree provides a foundation in the theories, principles, and approaches of advising.
  • Get Involved in the Profession: Academic advising conferences, workshops, and seminars are great opportunities to network with professionals & learn about best practices.

The guidance I received over 20 years ago not only helped my personal growth but sparked a genuine interest in the profession of academic advising & shaped the trajectory of my career and purpose. My journey – from advisee to advisor – is a testament to the transformative power of advisors and the power of helping others navigate their paths in school & beyond.


Gabriel Bermea is a Visiting Scholar at The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI), where he conducts research on academic advising practices and student success within and across Minority Serving Institutions.

We Want to Hear From You: Supporting Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Needs in Higher Education

We Want to Hear From You

Supporting Mental Health And Substance Use Disorder Needs In Higher Education

By: Roberto Rodriguez, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. 

If you need suicide or mental health-related crisis support, or are worried about someone else, please call or text 988 or visit the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline’s chat to connect with a trained crisis counselor.  

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Seven Things to Know About the Student Loan Payment Count Adjustment

Borrowers Have More Time to Consolidate Loans to Benefit from the Adjustment

By: Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray

Since this summer, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) has approved almost $44 billion in debt relief for more than 900,000 borrowers as part of the payment count adjustment. This is a one-time initiative to address historical failures in administering student loans. It provides much-needed relief to borrowers who have been in repayment for 20 years or more and gives all other borrowers an accurate picture of their progress toward forgiveness going forward. The payment count adjustment is one of several actions that has brought overall forgiveness approved by the Biden-Harris Administration to $132 billion for over 3.6 million borrowers.

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Administration of ESSA Title III State-Administered Grants Returns to OELA

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By: Montserrat Garibay, Assistant Deputy Secretary & Director for the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA)

As part of the Raise the Bar: Lead the World Initiative, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) last month hosted a convening with national and local leaders to discuss the pivotal moment we found ourselves in, as we transform and implement our multilingualism strategy in our day-to-day operations.

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A First Look at Student Loan Repayment After the Payment Pause

By: U.S. Undersecretary of Education James Kvaal

After more than three years, in June 2023, Congress ended the student loan payment pause, which suspended payments and interest for the duration of the pandemic. This fall, more than 28 million borrowers are returning to repayment, an unprecedented challenge for both borrowers and the Department of Education.  

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New Measures of Postsecondary Education Transfer Performance: Transfer-out rates for community colleges, transfer student graduation rates at four-year colleges, and the institutional dyads contributing to transfer student success

Nathan Sotherland, Kevin Stange, and Jordan Matsudaira

The U.S. postsecondary education system provides students with many flexible pathways to earning a bachelor’s degree. One of the most important of these is the opportunity to start a degree at a community college and transfer to a four-year degree program. Community colleges provide access to postsecondary education in diverse geographies (urban, rural, suburban), are open access and low cost, and offer an array of programs and credentials focused on both immediate employment and subsequent degree attainment through transfer to a four-year institution.1  However, while nearly 80 percent of community college students say they intend to transfer and eventually earn bachelor’s degrees,2 actual transfer and degree completion rates are a challenge: only 16 percent of students who start in community colleges ultimately earn bachelor’s degrees within six years, with lower rates for students from low-income backgrounds and students of color.3 Addressing this gap can help save students time and money in getting a degree, and will help diversify baccalaureate pathways because over half of students of color and low-income students start in the two-year sector.4 The latter is especially important in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling severely limiting the use of race in college admissions. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) has developed a resource guide for states and institutions to identify key strategies to improve the transfer system and completion rates.5

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Raising the Bar for American History and Civics

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By: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education 

Democracy thrives when there is a well-educated and informed citizenry. Raising the Bar in education means that every student is provided with a well-rounded education, and that includes creating opportunities to learn deeply about American history, understand the U.S. Constitution and how our system of government works, and build the skills required to engage in the democratic process. From a student perspective, understanding civics education can create agency in being able to shape the world around us and build a better society. Educators play an important role in creating environments to engage in robust discussions and innovate in activities to learn about civics. The U.S. Department of Education recently announced awards for two grants that will strengthen American History and Civics:

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Celebrating National Manufacturing Day: Creating Our Future

By: Catherine Mcconnell, Policy Advisor Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, US Department of Education  

The U.S. Department of Education is excited to join manufacturers, workers, educators, students, and families across our nation in celebrating National Manufacturing Day.  Manufacturing is essential to our country’s vitality: it sparks creativity, fuels global competitiveness, brings dreams and ideas to life, and helps spread and scale innovation. Advanced manufacturing—which leverages leading-edge technology in clean and modern environments, —is a rapidly growing and in-demand industry across the country. With tremendous opportunities to create our future and the significant impact manufacturing has on our economy, we need more young people and adults to envision their future in manufacturing. Over the last two years, the U.S. economy has added 830,000 manufacturing jobs, with estimates that we will have more than two million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2030.   

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Supporting Learning Through the Arts: An Interview with Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten on Raising The Bar For Arts Education

Earlier this month, we celebrated National Arts in Education Week. Encompassing visual arts, music, theater, and dance, arts education is pivotal in fostering creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. The annual celebration is a time to reflect on the arts’ profound impact on student learning and development and an opportunity to help ensure even more students have access to arts education.

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Advancing Opportunity through Building and Using Evidence

By: Jessica Ramakis, Director, Grants Policy Office, Office of Planning Evaluation and Policy Development, and Matthew Soldner, Commissioner, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences & Evaluation Officer, U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) strives to support the education community–including families, students, educators, State and local government agencies, Institutions of Higher Education, and local partners–in the work of continuous improvement of education. ED is a leader across government in using and building evidence about “what works” in education, and we appreciate the thoughtful work of our grantees, contractors, and other partners that provide support in advancing this work.

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