Max Rueda, ’21 and Eric Han, ’21 have been selected to experience the 2019 Advanced Space Academy Summer Program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Alabama.
Each year, The Scholarship Fund for Inner-City Children (SFIC) awards six all-expenses-paid Advanced Space Academy experiences to students from schools in the Archdiocese of Newark. Students are chosen based on their grades, extra-curricular activities, teacher recommendations, and essays. Prep is proud to congratulate Max and Eric on earning these scholarships winners. Both Max and Eric are Sheehan Scholars and outstanding science and math students.
Their essays were truly impressive, and with their permission, we’d like to share them with you.
I hastily grabbed a seat and, with no time to waste, tackled the form in front of me. Due to my choice to enroll in my school’s Intensive Summer Biology course during freshman year, I was required to rapidly learn topic after topic as I had a whole Honors Biology Course condensed and crammed into my brain over the span of a few weeks. And so, day after day in the scorching summer heat, I made my way to school to study biology.
The familiarly formatted questionnaire that I faced was none other than a dreaded POGIL (or Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning), a worksheet that would take precious minutes to complete. I could be starting tomorrow’s homework! Pulling myself together, I charged forward, my pen lurching across the paper, creating hieroglyphs only its creator could possibly understand. “Done!” I triumphantly proclaimed, looking around the room to inspect the progress of my peers. Some were only halfway done, not even. As I leaned back in my chair, resting on my laurels, my teacher came over. “If you’re done, then make sure to recheck your work.” I sighed, reluctant to look back at the job that I already completed. Nevertheless, I skimmed through the packet and gave each page a brief scan. I jerked to a halt midpage. I couldn’t remember anything from the “Guided Inquiry Learning” that I had supposedly just completed. I turned the page. Nothing came to mind. The page after that. I drew a blank. My eyes widened, and I looked closer at the paper. In my rush to complete the course, I had neglected to actually learn the information along the way.
That night, at home, I reviewed everything that we had gone over since the beginning of the course, methodically going through every handout given to us, every PowerPoint that was shared. I relearned key concepts, I memorized definitions. What is a cell? What was the function of the Krebs cycle? What were the differences in the compositions of macronutrients, and how did that affect what kind of energy they gave? I was set on making sure that I truly understood what we had learned,
It has been over half a year since that summer course. I would like to think that I’m different from when I first walked into the Biology lab, more focused, more curious, and more happy. A few weeks ago, one of my friends approached me, telling me about his time at Space Camp and recommending me to apply. I researched the program at home and was immediately hooked. The various STEM learning opportunities looked exciting, and the numerous different activities foreign but intriguing, all making Space Camp look like an exciting week to remember.
And so here I am, applying for another activity over the summer. Yet this time, I know things will be different. I know that, when I get there, instead of running through, I’ll slow down a little. Maybe this time I’ll look around, explore, sit down, and learn.
When I was in the fifth grade, about 10 years old, I was in need of help with my Math homework: factoring. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand how it worked and why it mattered that I did. When I got home that day, I asked my father the same question everyone has asked at least once in their lifetime: “Why do I need to know Math? When am I ever going to use this?” I decided to found out for myself, asking relatives family friends, and neighbors if they used Math in any capacity. Little did I know how many jobs actually used Math. My mother, being a nurse, explained that she needs to know the number of patients every day, so she uses Math daily. She also needs to calculate how much medicine to give to the patients; too much or too little can be life-threatening. My father was a sales representative; he needed to evenly divide products amongst all of the offices in the area every day. One of my cousins, being the owner of a small business, he had to pay his employees biweekly. He also has to calculate price changes if ever there is a sale. My neighbor across the street was an accountant, and he told me that numbers and calculations were at the heart of his job. Upon hearing that an entire job revolved around Math, I became slightly overwhelmed. Eventually, I Googled how many jobs utilize Math, and 86% use basic arithmetic. Since then, I’ve had a great interest in Mathematics and Geometry.
When seventh grade rolled around, I was looking for a project to do for the annual science fair. I wanted it to be entertaining yet informative, two seemingly polar opposites that only the best projects could easily combine. I had no idea what to do until my sister suggested I’d do something relating to aircraft technology. Ever since I was little, airplanes and jets had always been a side interest of mine, something that I never really found great interest in. I decided to give it a try and tried to come up with a question. Then that’s when it hit me: the military commonly uses jets or drones that can’t be seen by enemy radar. Why is that? And thus, my science fair project was started. I eventually found out that the angular design of the outside of these stealth vehicles reflect radio waves differently from commercial airliners, in that the angular panels redirect radio waves away from the satellite dish. More successfully, thus making them seemingly “invisible” from radars. For my efforts in trying to comprehend such a phenomenon, I achieved 1st place in the science fair. This was my first big start to loving technology and robotics.
My discovery of Math’s universality sparked my interest, but my eighth grade and freshman Algebra teachers helped to secure it. In the middle eighth grade, I, as well as a few others, took our sister high school’s Freshman Algebra midterm and passed, allowing us to take high school algebra classes at the high school. Every day, the six of us walked over to the high school, and Mr. M was our new Algebra teacher. His pedagogy kept the entire class focused; with him, Math was no longer the “worst subject.” One day he had told us something that to this day I haven’t forgotten: “Math is the language of the universe!” Whether we liked or not, it was omnipresent. It was in our food, our clothes, our heartbeat! “Language may separate us, but Math unites us,” Mr. M said. Another prominent person in my life is Mr. H, my Freshman Algebra teacher, who was quite a character. He was a sarcastic yet brilliant mathematician. He helped his students one-on-one and he was patient, never raising his voice; he always meant well. On the last day of our Freshman year, he had shown us a side project he had worked on for a couple of years. He then pulled up a program that counted prime numbers in a centrifugal pattern, spiraling outwards from the center of a grid. The way the prime numbers were highlighted seemed almost random, but then he set 47 as the center number, and some of the prime numbers that were highlighted formed a diagonal line that cut through the center as if a real pattern was forming, but he couldn’t figure it out. Mr. H helped me to see that the world of Math changes every day and that people are trying their hardest to understand the weird ways in which it works.
The Advanced Space Camp will allow me to make up for lost time with engineering and aerospace technology that I might have had if I attended BCTS. In eighth grade, I had a bit of a problem on my hands. I was torn between two high schools to attend: St. Peter’s Prep or Begen County Technical School in Teterboro. I was chosen for the Sheehan Scholarship which grants me a free scholarship to the school, something that only two other graduates from my middle school were able to do. However, only a month later, I was informed that my BCA test results came in, and I was invited to enroll in BCTS in the Aerospace Engineering major, the most popular and therefore the most difficult class to get into. I took their placement test and I was placed in the highest-level Algebra class. I was stuck: on one hand, I could take up Engineering as my main line of focus, or I could take advantage of the opportunities and offers that come with a Sheehan scholar at SPP. Ultimately, I chose to attend SPP. To this day I still wonder what could have happened to me had I attended BCTS. After I attend this summer program, I will have conceivably gotten a taste of what might have been my high school life.
If I attend the Advanced Space Camp, I hope to use the skills learned in future endeavors such as college. I plan to attend college at Massachusetts Institute of Technology or even California Institute of Technology. I can improve my skills in Technological design by taking advantage of the Engineering Challenges. I used to build robot modeling kits and miniature circuit boards, so this would be a great step up. The high elements course will help me build trust in my teammates, which can be helpful in college and even in my career, as I will most definitely need the support of others. I also wish to learn more about the ISS and why it’s so important to the development of our technology. I hope to learn these skills and eventually apply them in my future.
Moreover, I’m sure that this program will prepare me well for my possible career in the field. When the time comes, I wish to work somewhere I can fully apply the skills I will have learned at the Advanced Space Camp. Perhaps a profession at NASA working as a Computer Scientist or Computer Engineer would be a great course of action considering the background I will have come from. If not, then maybe a job at SpaceX as part of the Manufacturing and Production team working as a mechanical engineer. Or even working directly for Mr. Elon Musk as one of his IT’s. Wouldn’t that be a dream come true! I know that these are the kinds of jobs that require their employees to bring the best that they can. That’s why I always give 110% effort in all that I do. I want to put myself ever-closer to this position, and this program will allow me to do so.