By Hannah Chong
Once again, La Cañada High School has been privileged to participate in JPL Academy, a program held right down the street at the renowned Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Like last year, a group of students were tasked with the project of designing, building, and testing a model launcher and lander. They also had to program and test a scientific payload.
Students worked closely with Mr. Nate Fulmer, one of La Cañada’s physics teachers who joined the JPL Academy staff, as well as Jacqueline Bagumyan and Art Chmielewski in order to refine their business, physics, engineering, and communication skills. They were put into a real work environment and had to report updates weekly, checking in with advisors and making presentations about their progress.
Although not an easy task, it was, in the end, a satisfying one.
“It was really fulfilling because we were able to not only explore different careers in depth but also learn great tools for the future such as public speaking and collaboration,” said junior Anisa Patel.
After many hours of hard work and copious amounts of consultation, students made their way to the JPL Mars Yard on September 11 to put their creations to the test.
“It was a shocking but exciting experience,” said junior Heather Connolly. “It was so much fun coming up with a design from scratch. I learned a lot about the value of hard work and time.”
Senior Corey Loevinger added, “The beauty of trial and error is simply amazing. I really liked working with my group.”
Principal McFeat was incredibly impressed by the accomplishments of this year’s JPL Academy students. “This project wasn’t just about learning about math and science and engineering,” said Mr. McFeat. “It was also about learning those core competencies, which the students succeeded at. They collaborated and communicated well with others. They had a growth mindset. It really showed that hard work can achieve anything.”
Along the same vein, project director Art Chmielewski was happy with how the program had evolved and improved from its inaugural year. “We had consultants this year, which was really helpful in the beginning. We also had a physics teacher who was amazing because he could help out every day. We learned a lot from the past and improved from it,” he said.
“This year’s group was the best group I have ever been a part of, hands down,” Mr. Fulmer said. “No, I’m overall very impressed with all the creative designs, most impressed that every design was unique. Everyone had a different approach in terms of the launcher and the lander, and I was very impressed with the level of creativity.”
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