T-6 and counting

Author: Atharva S.

Six days. Only six days of transformative, sleep-depriving, chaotic, bug-infested, and stressing-over-OD-week are left as I write this. While most people would be excited if a 5.5 week (I can’t believe that five weeks are already over) summer camp was ending, I think I speak for everyone here when I say that sadness is one of the many emotions flowing through my brain right now. I guess I should have expected that spending 20+ hours every day with the same people would create friendships that will last forever, but the camaraderie here is unlike anything else I have ever experienced. I constantly feel as if I have known my 35 fellow participants for years. And we can’t forget about the amazing faculty here that made this place a home away from home. Dr. Rengstorf and Dr. Andersen have done amazing jobs at teaching us everything we would ever need to know about asteroids and orbit determination, and Ms. Martinez has made our dorms feel as cozy as possible. And the four TA’s/RA’s (Benji, Joel, Kathryn, and Lara) have done a fantastic job balancing work and play, with occasional “mandatory fun” sessions a much needed break from the continuous stress of psets and coding. 

Anyways, the day started, as usual, with working in the now infamous “pset dungeon”, scrambling to finish all the tasks that OD week calls for. With finishing astrometry and photometry, formatting various reports, and writing countless lines of code, OD week truly lives up to its infamy. But with the endless generosity that everyone here has, everyone manages to complete the assignments on time. 

In the morning, we began the morning session with the first of four TA talks. A longstanding SSP tradition, the TAs talk for around an hour about any topic of their choosing. Lara, our first TA, chose to present on her path through college, and how she learned various things she did not expect to learn, including drama and theater. Her theater skills was put to the test with an impromptu presentation on slides made by us the night before (cue evil laughter). 

One of the slides classifies the TAs into dogs (Joel), cats (Kathryn, Lara), and bear (Benji). 

This was followed by a talk from Kathryn about how she made her own game with her sister during Covid, including a video of the world-record speedrun (3:43). Breaking for lunch, we got fake Chinese food, and watched many struggles ensue with chopsticks (multiple were broken). Returning, we had lectures on haptics and engineering from Joel and theoretical computing from Benji (apparently quantum computing is fake??!!?). Joel talked about spending three months studying how people hold their phones, and we had a fermi estimation contest during Benji’s talk.

Team 4 during the Fermi contest after tying with the faculty team – me, Rajat, Joshua, Gautam, Velvet, and Julia (left to right)

Following dinner, we had a great karaoke night before submitting our MPC report, all nicely formatted and ready to send to the Minor Planet Center. Following this, we had the first pretty picture imaging session, and we are attempting to image the Crescent Nebula. 

Karaoke night in the RGH lounge
Finalized MPC report for team six – 2002 MQ3
Pretty picture session one: Saahil, me, and Hyde (from left to right)
Better image of the crescent nebula. 

Going off on another tangent here, but one of the many things SSP has given me is an opportunity to add to my on-going quotebook. Created during the school year, I was compelled to make a SSP quotebook, thanks to the countless random things being said 24/7 (literally it feels like we never sleep here). Here are some of my favorite quotes from this program so far (NMSU folks try and guess who said these 😏)

  • “i don’t think you are qualified to talk about this”
  • “you look like a California surfer boy”
  • “that seems like a disaster in fact”
  • “can you eat pink eye?”
  • “a guy killed his father once…it was kinda a comedy”
  • “the bucket of mice distracted me”
  • “i’m too white for this”
  • “how long is two years in india?”
  • “wait i thought stars were spiky”
  • “if you approach problems this way then your mother will never love you”
  • “you have my permission to slap him once”

And finally, my favorite and almost a catchphrase of this camp: “1…2…3…wrong indian!”. 

About me:

Hey guys! I’m Atharva, and I’m from Greenville, South Carolina. I love anything related to physics and am constantly watching random physics videos on Youtube. If I am not busy with taekwondo or school, I like to practice for upcoming quiz bowl tournaments, watch football, and listen to music (mostly country, pop or Bollywood). I also enjoy expanding my collection of keychains, magnets, pins, and coins. At SSP, you can find me grinding out psets, adding to my quotebook, or complaining about the dining hall food.