6/18/2017-6/22/2017 Robotic Telescopes, Student Research, and Education (RTSRE) Conference
In June 2017, Kate Meredith and Amanda Pagul represented Stone Edge Observatory and Yerkes Observatory at the San Diego Robotic Telescopes, Student Research, and Education (RTSRE) Conference. This was the pilot year of this conference, established in order to provide a “global picture of the role scientific research, technical engineering and astronomy education play in student research and education.” This conference featured a mix of educators and scientist, which was conducive to conversations of how to bring hands-on science to the classroom, i.e. how could the scientist and the educator work together and support each other in this effort of teaching science to students? The conference led to new connections and inspired new projects, the most recent being the establishment of an exoplanet project with Stone Edge Observatory observers. The conference is scheduled for its second year to be in Hawaii and we will plan to present on the science done with Stone Edge Observatory, as well as about the unique niche it resides in, being both real-time and remotely operated.
This McQuown Scholars weekend was packed with hands-on observation with Stone Edge Observatory, faculty and staff presentations, and the exploration of Yerkes Observatory, a central hub of discovery that functions as a crossroad between modern research in astrophysics juxtaposed with its historical value as an institution. This weekend spoke specifically to the goals of the McQuown Scholars program in engaging middle-high school students interested in STEM. These impressive groups of kids from Wyoming and Chicago dove right into the science of taking images, image processing, and observing asteroids, among other activities, with impressive curiosity and intellectual acuity. Not only were the faculty and staff teaching the students, but the students were teaching the faculty and staff, describing projects that they presented at the AAS meeting on variable stars and asteroids. Some highlights of this weekend included forming projects together that students could get involved in (e.g. asteroids, image processing), staying up into the wee hours of the morning observing and working in teams on the aforementioned projects, and making our own celestial spheres. But mainly getting to know these talented young researchers and seeing their participation in STEM was a pleasure!
Students and educators huddled together around the Yerkes Observatory Library room table, with all eyes on the projector as a student live-observed M57 with Stone Edge Observatory’s (SEO) 0.5-m telescope in Sonoma. This hands-on SEO workshop, which garnered 15 people, brought together students and educators alike, to both marvel at and analyze the astronomical phenomena of our universe. Participants learned how to observe galaxies, nebulae, and transient objects, as well as how to process the data obtained. The workshop featured a mix of both formal and informal education, providing an environment of directional as well as collaborative learning. Highlights included observing asteroids, making color images, and brainstorming future projects, ranging from upgrading the GUI to creating a functioning pipeline to observing asteroids and variable stars. Participants walked away with a sense for potential astronomy projects to integrate into a classroom setting as well as into their independent time, while SEO gained valuable astronomers who aim to enrich the astronomy community as well as their own understanding of our universe.