In five intense weeks this summer, Crystal Cockerill of Ahwatukee, a senior at Desert Vista High School, operated a telescope to take digital images of a near-earth asteroid, and wrote her own computer software to measure its position precisely and calculate its orbit around the sun.

Cockerill joined 35 other top science students from around the U.S. and the world for learning, late nights, and collaboration at the Summer Science Program (SSP) on the campus of New Mexico Institute of Technology.

Since 1959, bright teenagers have come to this unique program to spend their days in college-level lectures, and their nights imaging and measuring the speck of light from a distant asteroid.

Years and even decades later, many alumni refer to SSP as “the educational experience of a lifetime.”

Cockerill and her colleagues worked closely with university professors, heard and met prominent guest speakers on a variety of topics, and enjoyed behind-the-scenes tours of the Very Large Array, Trinity Site on the White Sands Missile Range, and Magdalena Ridge Observatory.

SSP is an independent nonprofit, operated in cooperation with Caltech, MIT, New Mexico Tech, and Westmont College.

• Beverly Stidham, (480) 898-7924 or bstidham@ahwatukee.com

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