Students from two rival high schools in Missouri's Raytown Quality Schools' district are embarking on a nine-month project to launch a satellite into space — and will have to collaborate to get the job done.

Even though these high schools compete against each other in sports, district leaders would like to see students from these rival schools work through their differences, exchange ideas and join forces to reach a common goal — just like they will need to do in the workforce one day. And they'll graduate with some of the skills and subject area expertise in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that employers are looking for. 

"Businesses are always telling schools or education systems that we need these types of workers, and we can reply and say, 'We're ready, but we need your help," said Allan Markley, superintendent of schools at Raytown Quality Schools.

Leaders in the community will lend their expertise in engineering, ham radio and other fields so students can learn skills in these areas. The district instructional technology staff will also be helping students with programming. 

But ultimately, this is a student-driven project where students will be engineering, designing, building and programming a satellite, as well as researching to determine what materials they need and what data they want to collect, said Melissa Tebbenkamp, director of instructional technology at Raytown Quality Schools. They'll have a chance to build one satellite, learn from that experience and then build a second satellite that will actually be launched. Students will also form teams in different areas including marketing, photography and project management, and will determine the best leadership structure for their teams. 

The district's curriculum coordinators are working with the instructional technology team to integrate this project into the course of study, Tebbenkamp said. For example, the marketing team will write blog posts sharing the progress of the project, which K-12 students will be able to read and react to.

Once the satellite is launched on Interorbital's Neptune Rocket in California in May, the teams will start collecting data that all K-12 students will be able to use in their classes. Physics students, for instance, could use collected GPS tracking data to estimate when the satellite will fall out of orbit. 

"That opportunity for them to engage in this project and to go through that as young adults is really exciting to me," Tebbenkamp said, "and I look forward to that growth over the next year."