Jen Trosper, SCCS parent and Aerospace Engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory with a degree from MIT and Master’s from USC, dedicated her talent and time to the SCCS community over the last several months during the 2018 STEM Expo. Below, she shares her perspective of the STEM Expo and its educational significance.

Jen TrosperWhat do you enjoy most about being involved with the STEM Expo?
I truly enjoy talking to the students about their projects. I like to hear their excitement about what they’ve done and also about all they’ve learned. Since we’ve done the Expo for two years now, I also enjoy seeing how the students progress year to year. They’ve really done some fantastic projects over the last two years!
 
What were you most excited about seeing during the Expo? 
It’s always fun to see the projects completed. We work with them over a few months but really only talk about their projects and draw diagrams of them. The STEM Expo is the first time we get to see what they’ve actually built and it’s always fantastic!
 
Why was it important to meet with students over several months regarding their projects? 
There are a couple of reason I like to do this. First, this is how the real world of STEM usually works. The big projects I work on have several “check points” before they are complete where it’s important to be able to explain what you are doing, why you are doing it, how you are doing it and why it will work. This is good experience for the students to understand this process and the check points are times when we help them answer those types of questions. Another reason is that I like to teach the methodology for doing projects. Just like there is a scientific method for completing scientific inquiry projects, there is also an engineering method for designing and building something. We want to make sure the students understand how to use and apply the different methods to their projects.
 
Why is learning science from a biblical worldview important? 
For me, it has been important for my faith to place things in their right position as they relate to God. Science and engineering are wonderful creations of God. There is impeccable design and intent in the universe we live in that was placed there by the hand of God. STEM fields are a way to discover, appreciate and investigate God’s creation. And for me, that helps me understand and know more about who God is. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.“ - Psalm 19:1-4
 
What do you love about your job?
My favorite set of projects is the Mars rovers; Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity and now Mars 2020 (yet to be named). I have had the privilege of working on the teams that built and operated all of these rovers and it has been an experience of a lifetime. I also took a year off from JPL and spent a year in Ukraine as a missionary teaching English and Bible which was an amazing opportunity. I’ve worked at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC and now I’m back in Southern California at JPL and am the Mission Manager for the Mars 2020 mission which will launch a rover to Mars in July of 2020 and landing February of 2021.
 
Thanks to all the parents and educators who made this educational experience a great success!



Seventh grader Briley Phelps won first place for her STEM project.

“Through the STEM Expo process, I learned that the setup of an experiment is critical for obtaining good data,” shared Briley Phelps, 7th grade winner. “My favorite part of this experiment was seeing the actual alpha and beta particles shoot off the radioactive source. I really like to learn about science because I find it interesting, challenging and fascinating to see how God works through His creation. When I get older and after playing soccer in college, I would like to become a chemist or a Chemical engineer because I love experimenting and getting my hands dirty.”

Briley Phelps