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JPL1Pasadena is known around the world for its Rose Parade, but it is known across the galaxy for sending rockets into space. On Monday, February 29, students visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena for an Avodah excursion.

Originally founded in 1936 by students and professors from the California Institute of Technology, JPL quickly established itself as a leader in the field of rocket science first with the escalation of World War II and later the Cold War. Their research and engineering has contributed to the Deep Space program and more recently, exploration of Mars.

“Not only does our visit to JPL remind us of Pasadena’s importance as a city,” Max Belz said. “It also reminds us of a God mighty and powerful enough to hang the stars in the sky. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the students to peer into the universe’s expanse.”

Since this year’s theme for the Avodah program is understanding creation, fall, and redemption, JPL helps students see God’s mark in creating and ordering a universe. Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Bijan Nemati, who is also the father of a former Providence student, gave Providence students a personal tour on Monday.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a research arm of NASA that currently has more than 20 spacecraft and about ten satellites studying different aspects of earth and its solar system. Its role in the Avodah program is crucial for students wishing to understand advances in science and technology and its application to air and space engineering. The excursion focuses too on air and space exploration as a historic and current distinctive of southern California.

Freshman Josiah VanderVeen from Langley, BC, Canada, participated in the Avodah. He had this to say about the experience:

We are reminded throughout Scripture of the majestic universe which God has created – the unfathomable depths of his handiwork. Max Belz, the director of experiential learning here at Providence, encouraged us to keep this truth in mind as we toured the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I would pinpoint what I experienced during this Avodah to two key moments:

First, I’d like to share a quote from Bijan Nemati, a Senior Engineer at JPL (Californian Institute of Technology). Just before he began the tour, he was talking to a small group of Providence students. He began, “when I was your age, I was in college for engineering. If you would’ve asked me then what I thought about the Liberal Arts, I would’ve told you they were a waste of time.” He continued, “As I look back, I realize just how wrong I was. The Liberal Arts are the very foundation of learning, and are an essential tool to effectively engage culture as Christians. So do me a favor, and keep on learning.”

I’d like to secondly impress upon you just how eye-opening this experience was. Not only did we gain an understanding of the sheer vastness of the universe, but we were given insight into the complexity and intricacy of God’s creation, revealing to us the awesomeness of His design. The JPL Avodah proved an invaluable experience, as we were able to engage with the greater scientific community while learning of the unfathomable depths of “the works of thy fingers” (Ps. 8:3)

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