Award Winning End to the Year

Well it is pretty much the end of the year and thankfully not the end of the world, so I am here writing what is most likely the last post for the year. But don’t hold it against the Mayans, they did afterall give us the most accurate calendar of early civilisation and chocolate!

Lots to tell you about after a huge first year for Telescopes in Schools and then a couple of cool Astro things to admire an smile at over the holidays.

  • First up, our biggest news. Shane and I were awarded with a 2012 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Outstanding Contribution. Specifically, this is why we were given the award;

‘Creating Connections: contribution to engagement’ and ‘Service to the community’ – Shane Huntington and Jacinta den Besten, pioneers of the the ‘Telescopes in Schools’ project, bringing planetary science to school students in Melbourne’s north and west. With the support of academics from the School of Physics and from the Graduate School of Education, the project has worked with teachers, students and parents in nine schools, promoting education in astrophysics and science.

You can read all about the award and the other wonderful recipients on the MUSSE website.

  • The morning of the award ceremony I had a group of 30 Yr 7-9 SEAL students from McGuire College Shepparton undertake a tour of the University. There is only so much you can see in an hour, but we saw quite a lot!

We went to the MU Sport for a quick tour of the Beaurepaire Centre – it was a hot day and the pool looked very inviting. Then it was over to the School of Physics for a peek at the Pelletron which is a particle accelerator that operates on the same principle as the van der Graff machine only a lot bigger. Then to the School of Chemistry where we saw a lecture theatre, a demonstration on reactions and fuels and then a student lab. Last stop for my part of the tour anyway, was the Melbourne Brain Centre which was a sensational facility for brain research and we got to talk to one of the researchers and see a research lab. The students then went on to Lygon St and a movie at IMAX.

Hopefully I will be able to show you a few pictures early next year and tell you what the students had to say, but in the meantime, they certainly sounded like they had a great time from these comments by teacher, Ms Crew;

I attended Melbourne Uni myself and had never had the opportunity to see many of the things we were able to see last Wednesday. It was really fascinating and we all really enjoyed it. Many of these students would never have even considered the prospect of attending a university and being able to see such amazing things.

How do you give an audience a taste of Astronomy in 5mins? A big task, so I just through everything at them. Nice thing about Astronomy though is you always get a wow in there somewhere – but the story about Tycho Brahe and turning the Sun off in Stellarium were definitely a couple of highlights.

I was also very interested in hearing the other speakers talk about the Bionic Eye, servicing electric cars and some of the art exhibitions we have around the University. There are going to be some very interesting programs for the students to participate in over the summer.

  • I have also been doing a bit of number crunching and Dr Maurizio Toscano has been conducting interviews with some of our schools.

In brief,

  1. We now have 9 schools participating in the program as host schools with telescopes.
  2. We held 50 observing sessions this year – 10 of these were daytime , solar observations
  3. We held 2 formal Professional Development sessions this year, one at Quantum Victoria and the other at the Melbourne Planetarium
  4. We held 8 teacher training sessions at the schools
  5. During the sessions for the year we had 262 teachers, 910 students, 104 parents, around 50 extras (siblings, friends and interested parties) and 77 TiS staff and volunteers. Obviously many of these were returning but it certainly gives you a very good indication of how many people we had at the sessions this year.
  6. Our standout events for 2012 were the Transit of Venus and the Total Solar Eclipse (Partial for us) with a great presence in both the TV and print media

Next year we plan to,

  1. Expand to more schools
  2. Provide more Professional Development for our TiS teachers
  3. Do lots of Astrophotography and solar observing
  4. Start working on some longer term projects with the students
  5. Conduct a webinar series that remote schools will be able to access
  6. and lots, lots more if we can find the time!

So some fun stuff to leave with you for the break.

  • Hubble has given us a Christmas ornament this year and everyone can enjoy it. Not sure how to hang it on the Christmas tree though.
  • The largest image ever released was taken by the WIYN 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak, Arizona of a supernova remnant in the Cygnus constellation. The full image is almost 1.7 GB!
  • And if you are also sick of the kids singing an endless loop of Gangnam Style by PSY, NASA now have their version which is clever, factual and very funny. Definitely a good one to share around!

I wish everyone a safe and happy break and I look forward to sharing all my stories of 2013 with you next year.



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