Everything Comes Together


SSP so far has been intense, but that’s also why it’s so enjoyable. We all not only survived the first week, but we adapted and thrived. Even with all the sleep I’ve lost staying up late to finish psets and debug my Python code, I can honestly say that it was worth it. In school, many assignments and activities simply feel like chores to complete, but at SSP that has never been the case. 

Coming into SSP, I was excited to not just learn new information, but also apply it in a practical context. I enjoy math, and compete in various math competitions, but whenever I do math, I always wonder ‘when would I actually ever use this’? Matrices, for example, are something that I struggled to appreciate in school. However, after learning about coordinate transformations at SSP, I realized just how useful they could be in rotating vectors. Only a few hours later, and I was already applying what I had learned by writing a program for the orbit determination that would perform a coordinate transformation using rotation matrices. In my AP Calc BC class this year, I remember learning about Taylor Series and asking what their applications were, only to hear something along the lines of, “You’ll use them in higher level calculus courses”. And even though that answer didn’t explain why they were useful, I learned them anyway. When I saw that we would be covering Taylor Series in an upcoming learning block at SSP, I was pleasantly surprised!

Each day I’ve learned something new, whether it be in Python, math, physics, or astronomy and each day, I’ve had the chance to apply what I’ve learned in a meaningful context. In addition, the emphasis on collaboration at SSP has allowed us as a group to work together more effectively than we could individually. There are times when I’ve needed help on a math pset, and there are other times where I’ve been able to help on a Python pset. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses but collectively we help each other improve. 

There’s a whole lot to SSP beyond just solving science problems though. During mandatory fun, we try speedrunning crosswords or guessing each other’s drawings. If we’re lucky enough to obliterate two psets in a single session, we start playing Codenames. The Question of the Day is a fun brain teaser activity (with prizes) where even after a few hours of thinking I can still have made no progress. On Saturday we played a pasta themed Jeopardy. As someone who eats pasta very frequently (almost everyday), my knowledge of only penne and spaghetti let me down tremendously. I’ve missed out on so many Italian words, I have some serious catching up to do. I guess I have my work (and pasta) cut out for me.