Happy Friday! Megan here.

Weather check: Maybe a teensy bit of snow

THANK YOU! I'm blown away by the support you've shown me in this end-of-the-year member drive. Twenty-six of you have bought into a smarter Sioux Falls this month, which means I'm only four people shy of hitting my goal of 30 new members. I would love to see that goal met (and even exceeded) before the end of the year because reader support is a critical component to keeping this smarter, easier local news accessible to all. Are you ready and able to be a member?

🎉Also, you go Katie! Katie Kluver, you are the winner of a $50 Downtown Sioux Falls gift card for participating in the Simplified Gift Guide! Email me to claim your prize, and thanks to all who participated!

This weekend, I stepped a bit outside the Sioux Falls boundary to check out some very cool stuff happening up at SDSU with potential astronomical reach. I've also got the first details on a story that's sure to have much broader implications – leaving hundreds of parents scrambling to find new childcare. And don't miss the jam-packed event guide and some Super Simplified Stories.

And now, news:


How S.D. students became finalists to work with NASA

Simplified: Engineering students at South Dakota State University are now among six finalists globally in a NASA competition to design a rover to explore the coldest regions of the moon.

Why it matters

  • NASA's Break the Ice Lunar Challenge started in 2020, when the government agency put out a call to innovators to create robotic systems tough enough to not only traverse but excavate parts of the moon that receive no sunlight.
  • SDSU Associate Professor Todd Letcher saw this challenge, and thought it was a great opportunity to give his mechanical engineering students a chance to work on a project directly applicable to the aerospace industry – an area he sees many students express interest in. Now, they're finalists for a potential $1 million cash prize.
  • Over the last three years, and with students coming and going on the project, Letcher's team has advanced to the final six teams out of an initial 31 applicants. SDSU's rover is one of only a few in the competition created by a university and not by an existing aerospace company.
"We're all very excited to have this kind of opportunity in front of us, and we're not taking it lightly by any means," Letcher said. "We basically told (the students), 'You can't think about this as a senior project anymore. This isn't just for a grade. This is your chance.'"

Tell me more about the project


Apple Tree to close all Sioux Falls childcare locations

Simplified: Apple Tree Children's Center will close all four Sioux Falls locations by Jan. 12, according to a letter shared Thursday with parents and obtained by Cmtv News.

a child is drawing on a piece of paper
Photo by Erika Fletcher / Unsplash

Why it matters

  • The ongoing childcare crisis in Sioux Falls has led many daycares to close in recent years, but this is perhaps the most dramatic example of how tough it truly is to provide care.
  • According to the Apple Tree website, the centers currently serve 800 children, which means hundreds of parents will now be looking for a new childcare option in a city that's already facing significant shortages, and, the childcare that is available is often unaffordable for many – if not most – families.
  • In the letter sent to parents, Apple Tree's Executive Director Randall Stewart cited staff shortages, occupancy costs and the impact of inflation as the reasons for the closure, noting the combination led to "financial losses too large to sustain."
"Regrettably, sadly, we are forced to suspend operations no later than Jan. 12, 2024," Stewart said in his letter.

What happens next?

There's certainly a lot more to report here, and I'll be chatting with parents, other centers, and community leaders over the next several days to provide more context about what happens next. Keep reading, and, if you're a parent affected by the closure, reach out. I'd love to talk to you.


Meet these award-winning young real estate agents in Sioux Falls

This is a paid piece from the REALTOR® Association of the Sioux Empire.

Simplified: Four Sioux Falls real estate professionals were recognized recently with the annual RASE YPN "4 Under 40" award from the REALTOR® Association of the Sioux Empire (RASE). Meet the winners and learn what sets them apart.

Why it matters

  • RASE started the 4 Under 40 award in 2021, and the program is modeled after the National Association of REALTORS® 30 Under 30 award, which recognizes candidates who are successful in the real estate business and have demonstrated skill, success, creativity, and leadership in their careers.
  • Winners are selected by a RASE committee, which looks for people who are not only successful in terms of selling but also who volunteer and who support the association's work.
  • The hope is that by recognizing people who are relatively new to the industry, the association can help mold its future leaders.
"This award highlights the accomplishments within the real estate industry but also our communities and is truly an honor to receive amongst our industry," said Kate Patrick, RASE board president and past winner of the 4 under 40 award.

Tell me more about the winners


Super Simplified Stories

  • The book was better? The Washington Pavilion is teaming up with Siouxland Libraries for a new promotion: "Read the book, see the show." Library cardholders can get special deals for certain shows – the first of which is "To Kill a Mockingbird." Ask a librarian for the promo code to save $20 off certain tickets.
  • Chat with a councilor. The City Council's monthly Coffee with City Councilors event takes place this Saturday. Councilor Marshall Selberg will be at the WP Cafe in the Washington Pavilion from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday.


Stuff to do: Dec. 15-21

  • *God bless us, every one! The Premiere Playhouse presents its third annual production of "A Christmas Carol," with nine chances to catch the holiday classic between Dec. 15 and Dec. 23. Tickets for the family-friendly tale of Ebenezer Scrooge start at $35, and the Dec. 21 performance will have an ASL interpreter. Find more details, showtimes and tickets here.
  • See Santa. The jolly old elf is continuing to make the rounds in Sioux Falls this week – this time with a lot of food-focused events. He'll be at Kidtopia, the Washington Pavilion, eating breakfast at Hy-Vee, brunchin' at Thunder Road, suppering at Chick-Fil-A and snagging a beer at Lupulin.
  • Fire and Ice. BronzeAge Art Casting is hosting its annual Fire and Ice molten iron pour Saturday evening at its location on Weber Avenue. And down the way at Little Stone Church on Sixth Street, the Fire and Ice Art Market will feature local artists, bingo, Woodgrain brews and yours truly (come say hi and grab some stickers and coloring sheets!) More details here.
  • It's time to light the lights. Luminary Lane is one of Sioux Falls' oldest Christmas traditions. Drive or walk through the Park Ridge neighborhood (Glendale Ave. to Hawthorne Ave. between 22nd and 26th Streets) on Sunday evening from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. More details here.
  • A jazzy Charlie Brown Christmas. Dada Gastropub is hosting Studio B Jazz this weekend with live performances of songs from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Reservations are highly encouraged. Details here.
  • Party with the butterflies. Head to the Butterfly House and Aquarium for a Holiday Bash Saturday. There will be face painting, animal encounters, crafts, activities and Santa. Details here.
  • Shop local. The Jones Building is hosting a holiday market Saturday starting at 11 a.m. Find local vendors and makers throughout the building, and finish up your holiday shopping. Need more inspiration? Check out our Simplified Gift Guide.

*Denotes a sponsored event listing. Want to see your event here? Reply to this email.


More Simplified Stories

How folks are working to get more people downtown
From new events to paid helpers to pulling weeds, there’s a lot of work going into making sure downtown is a destination year-round.
The design for a new, $45M Lincoln County courthouse is taking shape
Lincoln County Commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve design concepts and, more significantly for taxpayers, the maximum price tag on a new courthouse.
Your Simplified Gift Guide is here
Unique local businesses are what makes Sioux Falls cool. By supporting them, we not only ensure they’re here to stay, but we also can find cool stuff we wouldn’t find anywhere else.


What I'm falling for this weekend:


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Thank you

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