"Bringing The Skies To Baltimore" — Great Success.
So for nearly a year a select group of awesome volunteers among the Physics and Astronomy grad students at Hopkins have been putting together a pair of portable planetaria. Last year March we received a grant to embark on this project. Just 5 days ago we culminated the grant with a big unveiling event at the Southwest Baltimore Charter School. Every year their 5th grade class spends a month or two studying space. Last year we were invited to spend a couple class periods with 5th grade doing some space and astronomy demos. The students had some time during and after the demos to pick our brains and they has some astute and insightful questions for us. We were searching for an excuse to come back when we heard about the Ignite Baltimore grant (see our project update about 4 minutes in at the last Ignite).
With our grant we build two planetaria, a 12.5-ft one that we can put up during our department’s annual physics fair and take around to schools, and a 9-ft one to deliver to SBCS that they could keep and use as their own astronomy classroom. On Wednesday we delivered the planetarium and set up a half day of fun activities for the kids.
The snow started overnight, but luckily with barely an inch on the ground, school was still on schedule and we went ahead with our plan. We packed away stacks of disassembled planetarium and various other demo materials into cars and headed south. By twenty past eight we had all of our supplies in the building and up the small elevator (too small for our dolly) to the 5th grade hallway. By 8:40, to our surprise our dome was assembled!
The day was planned with 3 stations. One was the build-a-galileoscope station, where students learned a little about how lenses focused light and put together a simple telescope in groups. Another station was the spectroscopy demo, where students looked through small diffraction gratings (e.g. these) at various gas lamps, classroom lights, and sunlight from the window to learn about how astronomers can measure light by its color and what we can learn. And of course the main event was the planetarium show. A couple of students put together a fantastic show, starting at a google earth view of the kids’ school, panning out into the solar system and beyond, all the way back to the hubble deep field.
It was a really spectacular day and I’m so proud of everyone who contributed to this project. It would not have been possible without the combined effort of the dedicated volunteers, putting in hours on weekends and weeknights. At the end of the day it was more than just a planetarium show. We brought astronomy to a group of fifth graders from the perspective of young and eager scientists. And hopefully we planted the idea that everyone can be a scientist.
Today, there is an increased push for the American education system to improve their STEM programs as well as to get students to show interest in the fields. It is important to bring attention to some of the African-American females that have, and are still, paving the road for future scientists, astronauts or any STEM degree holders.
These women are just some of the many examples of African-American contributions to science. (Descriptions pertain to the women in the order they appear on the photoset, from up down, left right)
Mercedes Richards PH.D is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University. Originally from Jamaica, Dr. Richards received her Doctoral degree at the University of Toronto. In 2010 Dr. Richards received the Fulbright Award to conduct research at the Astronomical Institute in Slovakia. research focus is on binary stars; twin stars formed at the same time.
Willie Hobbs Moore PH.D is the first African-American woman to earn a PH.D in physics in 1972. She received it at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Her thesis research involved important problems in vibrational analysis of macro molecules.
Beth Brown PH.D (1969-2008) was an Astrophysicist in the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Born in Roanoke, VA, she grew up watching Star Trek and Star Wars and was fascinated with space. In 1998, Dr. Brown becoming the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in Astronomy from the University of Michigan.
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein PH.D is currently a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at the Observational Lab in Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland. Originally from Los Angeles California Dr. Prescod-Weinstein specializes in theoretical cosmology.
Dara Norman PH.D is a professor at the University of Washington. Dr. Norman grew up in the south side of Chicago Illinois. She went to MIT as an Undergraduate and worked at NASA Goddard in Maryland. Dr. Norman currently specializes in gravitational lensing, large scale structure and quasars (quasi-stellar objects). This year she was honored with the University’s Timeless Award for her contributions and accomplishments to astronomy. In 2009 she was invited to the Star Party at the White House.
Jeanette J. Epps PH.D from Syracuse NY is a NASA astronaut. She received her PH.D in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Marylan in 2000. Dr. Epps was selected in 2009 to be one of the 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. She recently graduated from Astronaut Candidate Training.
Shirley Ann Jackson PH.D is the second African-American woman to earn a PH.D in physics and the first from MIT. In 2009 Dr. Jackson was appointed to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. She is currently the President of the Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute.
I started programming when I was 5, first with Logo and then BASIC. The picture above is me, age 9 (with horrible posture). By the time this photo was taken, I had already written several BASIC games that I distributed as shareware on our local BBS. I was fast growing…
You guys. This is pretty cool.
Found it on laboratory equipment’s tumblr
Outside of the usual reasons not to post for a while, my computer died on me. Hopefully, if it’s a quick fix things will be back to normal very soon.
Maybe I’ll get more comfortable with phone-based tumbles as a result…
Two big items of other news:
-I’m teaching a class for the first time this Tuesday! JHU students better brace themselves
-I’ve decided to get twitter (it’s not too late, right?). though I still need to come up with a name. Suggestions welcome!