One of the long-standing traditions of SSP is the Question of the Day (QOD), where participants are asked to solve some challenge completely unrelated to their main project. QODs range from interesting unintuitive physics problems to cipher codes to creative endeavors of drawing or storytelling. As the NMT QOD TA, I had the pleasure of selecting and evaluating these daily challenges. While the physics/logic questions were quite the challenge for the students, some of the best moments came from the Friday creative QODs, and I want to share some of those here. Note that while many students submitted excellent responses to more than one of these questions, I will not be featuring a student more than once.
Week 1: Friday June 25
Week 1’s creative QOD began with an SSP classic–draw a cow and give it a back story, something really out there to drive home that QODs can be whatever I am feeling that day. Some students decided to take a Lovecraftian approach, like Emma C, whose cow grew utters so strong they became legs.
The slightly darker tone continued with submissions like Stephen S’s where he shared the origin story of the Chick-fil-A cow who was originally adopted by Ronald McDonald but became outraged when he saw the clown eating a hamburger.
Something about cows apparently inspires fear and terror, because for his post, Jeremy L referenced the famous SCP project as he shared the research into SCP-001*, a cow which feeds off human’s “darkest imaginations”.
Fret not that all of the cow submissions were dark and twisted, as some, like our resident pun master Katrina L., told a lovely story about Bagel, the chocolate milk cow. A snippet of that story is included below.
Bagel always stayed up pasteur bedtime. Bagel always kept a dairy, writing down her adventures because she loved to travel. It was a good way to help her keep track of her moo-ds. She always felt worried when she ate cake because it made her stomach herd. Cow could you not love her?
Jenny F likewise told the tale of a space cow, this time named Gary the Galactic cow, who crash landed on Earth but found a loving home among the Earth cows.
Umran K., in reference to NMT’s favorite song shared her interpretation of “Bartholomew the Parallelcow.”
Week 2: Friday July 2
Week 2 took a hard left and for the creative QOD, I asked the students to write limericks for the staff. Matt N told the story of TA Abby’s time working at an ice cream shop.
Abby is short,
five foot two,
She’s much shorter than me and than you.
And once at her job,
She tole cookie dough globs,
And what’s funny’s her boss never knew!
Elane K offered incredibly positive and heartwarming limericks as her submission as evidenced by her kind words for Tristin W.
Here is a limerick about someone incredible I know,
A person who’s red-headed, who’s funny, who never loses tempo.
Undeniably a cool shirt-wearer the true master of Kempo,
This is all to say that here is no better existing,
Black hole conqueror, per owner, martial artist than Tristan!
Alice L, notable duck connoisseur, submitted wonder TA limericks, but her bonus limerick was what really made me smile.
There was once a pretty small ducky
Who really got rather quite lucky
For the went to a camp
With people who were champs
And made the summer much less sucky.
Week 3: Friday July 9
Week 3 we continued the trend of thinking about staff by asking the students to match each staff member to food and explain their reasoning. Justin J, a world-renowned Chipotle lover, decided to match each person with a component of his standard order.
Dr.R is steak, because he likes to start beef with other staff members and his students. Dr. A is pinto beans because he helps me “pass” my method of “gas” pset. Katie is white rice – a staple of every household (breakout room). Michael’s spicy QODs make him hot salsa. Abby’s puns are cheesy, and Tristan scoops our teamout when we hit guac-bottom on a difficult pset problem. Finally, every Chipotle bowl needs a dressing, and that’s Ms. M – the sweetest honey vinaigrette.
With such a tight race that week between three of the participants, Jonathan C, won the consensus of the TAs with his staff-food pairs, such as noting that Abby M is most like a hot pot.
Abby is a hot pot. Best enjoyed with a group, Abby helps lead social activities and creates a strong sense of community amongst the members. Abby is very accepting of people’s random quirks and interests, allowing them to pour plenty of ingredients into her. She’s open to new game suggestions. However, when you provoke her by adding too many bad ingredients, she suddenly becomes spicy. Maybe that’ll result in her changing people’s names or getting into fun debates with participants. But no matter what, she’s a welcoming dish that you can’t go wrong with.
Gerry E drew a heart-warming connection between the beloved mole sauce and our AAD Dr. A
The mole is a preeeeetty ancient food.It is a combination of two different cultures (pre-Columbian Mexican and Spanish,or Physics and Math).Mole also has this special taste to chocolate that makes it very sweet. Finally, Dr.A is also mole because I always think of my grandpa when I eat it. He used to do the best mole.
Crystal T, for her part compared AD Dr. R to potatoes of all shapes and sizes.
Week 4: Friday July 16
Week 4 we really played to the participants’ strength as a generation asking them to submit an SSP meme. You could tell they really liked this one as it had the most submissions of any QOD in the program. The night before, Kristin H. had acquired a childhood photo of our TA Abby and submitted this original gem.
Another original meme was submitted by Lucy W, who found the perfect pairing of actual quotes from our AAD Dr. A with his Zoom picture.
Chinmay J, for his submission, matched a classic Parks & Rec meme with the SSP experience of finding your asteroid for the first time.
Tanay B also focused on the experience of identifying your asteroid, but from a slightly different perspective.
Hyun K., meanwhile, captured the true SSP experience in her meme.
Week 5: Thursday July 22
In the last week, we saved Friday for a special SSP memory QOD, so Thursday was the creative day. Whisked away to our nearest stellar neighbor Alpha Centauri b, participants had 8 hours to get back to Earth less their team suffer terrible embarrassment during a group presentation the next morning. I would tell you the amazing, daring tale of how Lizzie R narrowly avoided such a fate, but I am sworn to respect TA-participant confidentiality. All I can say is that it was an eye opening experience.
A story I can share is how Franklin W decided interstellar war came second to ensuring his team had an amazing SwRI presentation. See, Alpha Cen b is inhabited by ulta-intelligent lizard folk who have faster-than-light travel technology. But how could Franklin convince the lizards to send him home? Simple. Simply remind them that “all civilizations are inherently expansionary” and so it is in their best interest to snuff out humans before we get too powerful. In Franklin’s own words, “as they begin taking over the Earth, I can give my SwRI presentation!! Sure, maybe humanity will be wiped out, but at least I got back in time and was able to save my team from total embarrassment!”