The Education and Public Outreach group at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory has designed an outside-of-school education program to excite the interest of talented youth in future projects like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the NOAO (archival) Data Lab - their data approaches and key science projects. Originally funded by the LSST Corporation, the program cultivates talented youth to enter STEM disciplines and serves as a model to disseminate to the 40+ institutions involved in LSST. One Saturday a month during the academic year, high school students have the opportunity to interact with expert astronomers who work with large astronomical data sets in their scientific work. Students learn about killer asteroids, the birth and death of stars, colliding galaxies, the structure of the universe, gravitational waves, dark energy, dark matter, and more. The format for the Saturday science cafés has been a short presentation, discussion (plus food), computer lab activity and more discussion. They last about 2.5 hours and have been planned by a group of interested local high school students, an undergraduate student coordinator, the presenting astronomers, the program director and an evaluator. High school youth leaders help ensure an enjoyable and successful program for fellow students. They help their fellow students with the activities and help evaluate how well the science café went. Their remarks shape the next science café and improve the program. The experience offers youth leaders ownership of the program, opportunities to take on responsibilities and learn leadership and communication skills, as well as foster their continued interests in STEM. The prototype Big Data Science Academy was implemented successfully in the Spring 2017 and engaged almost 40 teens from greater Tucson in the fundamentals of astronomy concepts and research. As with any first implementation there were bumps. However, staff, scientists, and student leaders all stepped up to make the program a success. The project achieved many of its goals with a relatively small budget, providing value not only to the student leaders and student attendees, but to the scientists and staff as well. Staff learned what worked and what needed more fine-tuning to successfully launch and run a big data academy for teens in the years that follow.
AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts
- Pub Date:
- December 2017
- 0805 Elementary and secondary education;
- 0820 Curriculum and laboratory design;
- 0825 Teaching methods;
- 0850 Geoscience education research;