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PSSO conducts mission to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, nine students from the Poly Student Science Organization (PSSO) ventured on a field trip to the inner workings of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

PSSO leaders juniors Daniel Zheng and Theodore Kratter and senior Janie Drum connected with Ashitey Trebi-Ollenu, a NASA robotics engineer who has worked on several Mars missions. Trebi-Ollenu acted as the students’ tour guide of the JPL laboratories, which are not usually open to the public. The students got to visit rooms for building and testing spacecrafts.

Junior Ava Teng shared, “I had a great time at JPL and learned so much. My favorite part was learning about how the rovers generate energy and getting to see some of JPL’s testing sites.”

Junior Gabriel Chae added, “We got to explore a lot of behind-the-scenes laboratories, which was pretty cool.” Chae particularly enjoyed viewing JPL’s Mars Yard, an expanse of dust and rocks intended to simulate the terrain of Mars.

Whether students were interested in electrical engineering or space exploration, each discovered something new about JPL’s spacecraft process from ideation to launch.

“Personally, my favorite was when we were able to see up close and fiddle with some of the components of the Optimism and Scarecrow rovers, like their differently treaded tires,” said Zheng.

Optimism is the earth-bound twin of NASA’s Perseverance rover, which is currently on Mars. JPL uses Optimism to test possible commands for Perseverance. Scarecrow, thus named because of its lack of a computer brain, helps JPL engineers understand and test Mars rovers’ mobility and landing. Trebi-Ollenu facilitated the students’ unique opportunity to engage with the rovers.

Robin Barnes

Upper School Science teacher and PSSO faculty advisor Robin Barnes commented, “JPL is dedicated to encouraging and supporting anyone who wants to go into STEM because it’s important work that the next generation will be in charge of.”

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Emily White, Science Columnist
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