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Week of July 20th | Issue 14

Dear PREP Families,

Did you know that today is national moon day?!  What an amazing opportunity for us to explore the scientific and technological advancements made in the fields of astronomy, astrophysics, and much more! As part of our exploration this week, we will look at previous missions completed by space programs and what it took to create a successful launch to the stars. Together, we'll also explore what future missions are in the works - ones that YOU could be a part of one day.

We hope that you'll be able to utilize the resources included in this week's newsletter to further your curiosity, learn new information, ask questions, and investigate what is possible. Just like space itself, your limits are expansive and ever growing. So, slip on your moon boots and start your countdown to fun!

Happy exploring, 

                                       - The PREP Team
Virtual STEM Academy Updates
We are kicking off Week 6 with Pre-Algebra, Biology, Advanced Electrical Engineering, Calculus, and Research Methods! We've really been enjoying our time with everyone who's been able to join us in a Virtual STEM Academy module this summer. We've learned a lot, and hope you have too! 

Hello from Mr. LaDue, PREP 3 Research & Inquiry Instructor!

When the sun sets in national parks, a new world of starry wonder is revealed. However, increased light pollution and urban development are threatening our access to the night sky where protections aren't in place. You can join the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the McDonald Observatory for a discussion called Half the Park is After Dark: Protecting the Intrinsic Value of the Night Sky to learn more about the value of the night and how you can help protect it! 

Perseverance, NASA's most advanced Mars rover to date, will launch between July 30th and August 15th, 2020 and will arrive at Mars on February 18th, 2021. Perseverance's mission is to help answer key questions about whether or not life on Mars was, or ever will be, possible. PREP 2 students can learn more about the mission and put their Scratch knowledge to use by programming a Mars exploration game via NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Let the #CountdownToMars begin! 

Students who participate in our PREP 3 program or take the Research Methods or Advanced Engineering virtual modules get to experience the process of designing, building, testing, failing, and re-designing at least a couple of times as they create independent research inquiries or Maker projects. This process is a critical part of the engineering design process, and you can see it laid out in full detail on NASA's Hubble Servicing Index page. While you're there, you can also learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope by checking out fun facts, history, or any of the cool videos posted on the site. 

A finite state machine is a computational model that can be used to visualize sequential logic. Using this tool, you can create a model of a system that includes a finite number of states, with transitions between the states controlled by logic (think: Choose-Your-Own Adventure book, but with computer science!)  As you can imagine, finite state machines are a very useful tool for evaluating "what-if" scenarios. For this reason, NASA uses them to more deeply understand complex systems and to try to identify problems before they occur (for an example, check out the Space Launch System model). You can learn more about finite state machines and how to create one in JFLAP thanks to Teaching London Computing. Go ahead PREP 4 students, add some more software to your toolbox! 
Recently, there was a space craft launched to the International Space Station (ISS). On missions like these, we often focus on the astronauts in the shuttle itself. While their position is extremely important, a project like this requires an entire team of people on the ground to make it all happen. Space programs like NASA have incredibly talented, diligent, and passionate staff members who make space exploration possible.

We encourage you take time this week to do some exploring of your own in NASA's Career Corner and hear from amazing scientists and engineers like Lori Mullins, a Pyrotechnical Specialist who's responsible for launching the rocket off the ground! You'll be surprised at how many professionals it takes to make something like this happen. There is a need for a diversity in talents and skills on every team, and especially one this large. One day, you could be on the team that sends us farther into space than we've ever gone before!
Throughout this summer, we've challenged you to research and investigate a number of different careers. One of the best ways you can continue to learn about new careers is to hear directly from the professionals who actively work in the fields you are researching. Since this week is all about space, we recommend  that you check out the NASA live streaming YouTube channel. They showcase engineers, scientists, and mathematicians working on current space programs and projects every day! Even Mark Zuckerberg was interested in learning from these professionals and was able to interview astronauts from the International Space Station. Check out that interview here

Journal Prompt: Do you think we should continue exploring space? Why or why not?

Be sure to share your thoughts with us on our social media pages. We cannot wait to hear from you!
We hope you enjoyed last week's challenge! You can see solutions from multiple students on the "Numerical Recycling" Math Challenge page

We've featured the introductory video for the fourteenth math challenge below.  After watching the video, you can read more about the challenge and how to complete it on the Collaborative Mathematics site. Remember to submit your solutions by emailing them to us with the subject line "Tick, Tick, Tick..." for a chance to be featured in next week's newsletter! 
Math Challenge #14: Tick, Tick, Tick...
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