Winning team of space design competition includes Appleton, Belfast students

Sat, 04/13/2024 - 5:00pm

LIMESTONE — Youth from Appleton and Belfast were part of a Maine School of Science and Mathematics (MSSM) team that won the East Coast and Canadian Space Elements Design Competition. This was a 22-hour challenge where the team had to develop a proposal for a lunar habitation, working around the clock to create a 50-slide presentation.

MSSM is the state’s first tuition-free, public, residential high school, located in Limestone. The seven students from MSSM were a part of a larger team of about a 40-person team from around the country. They were competing against similar teams from the US East Coast and Canada.

The seven-member MSSM team included Gabriel Austin, a senior from Belfast; Elliot Dooley, a sophomore from Blue Hill; Asher Labbe, a senior at MSSM from Rome; Charlie Reischer, a senior from Fort Kent; Aaron Rose, a senior from Harpswell; Steph Sweep, a freshman from Lincoln; and Hadrian Ward, a junior from Appleton. The advisor for the group is Eugene Katsman, Physics and Engineering Instructor at MSSM. Katsman shared that he saw, "a good bit of cross pollination between the engineering class and what the team did in this competition."

The first step after receiving the Request for Proposal (RFP) was to choose one of the five available fictional aerospace companies from the program book. Each company had a specialty and the MSSM team chose Flechtel Constructors due to the focus of mining and habitation. Students had different roles in the company including Aaron Rose as the VP of Engineering, Elliot Dooley as VP of Marketing, Gabe Austin led Automation, Hadrian Ward and Steph Sweep handled Structural, Charley Reischer was Director of Operations, and Asher Labbe was also in Operations. After the organization was decided, the company had to submit a proposal brief explaining how they were able to meet the criteria for the RFP. Aaron Rose noted, "Even though we had a smaller team than in past years, we pulled together and delivered an outstanding proposal."

The Industry Simulation Education (InSimEd) organizes space settlement design competitions set in the future when private companies are leading interplanetary colonization. Students form fictional aerospace firms to respond to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from the fictional Foundation Society. Teams have a limited time to develop detailed design briefs outlining how they can meet the RFP requirements. Proposals are judged by industry professionals, with the winning team's company awarded the contract. To reach the prestigious International Space Settlement Design Competition finals at the Kennedy Space Center, teams must first compete in regional qualifying and final rounds. It's an immersive challenge testing students' engineering, business, and presentation skills.


Founded in 1995 in Limestone (Aroostook County), Maine School of Science and Mathematics has been a beacon of excellence in mathematics education, nurturing a community of intellectually curious students who revel in the beauty and challenge of mathematics. With a focus on fostering a culture of mathematical exploration and collaboration, MSSM empowers students to push the boundaries of their understanding while embracing the joy of mathematical discovery. MSSM was ranked #2 Best High School in the nation in 2019.