SFAz helps the White House give a boost to science
Optics researcher Stephen Pompea, a Science Foundation Arizona principal investigator leading a hands-on optics education program in rural Arizona, will showcase a view of the stars at a “White House Star Party,” an event celebrating astronomy and science this week. Pompea will provide attendees with a perspective of the constellations and planets through a simple yet powerful “Galileoscope,” a low-cost telescope being utilized in Arizona schools and across the country.
The Galileoscope’s distribution throughout the state is made possible in part by a Science Foundation grant designed to promote science and math skills development toward a more globally competitive Arizona. Since 2006, Science Foundation’s K-12 education programs have helped educate over 54,000 students in critical science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.
The year 2009 marks the “International Year of Astronomy,” and the affordability of the Galieoscope at less than $15 each is offering Arizona students the opportunity to become electrified by seeing the Milky Way and Neptune for the first time. Pompea’s optics program further engages students in building refracting telescopes, experimenting with lenses and mirrors, creating color-changing optics using polarization, and using lasers to learn the basic properties of light.
In addition, in late October teachers from across Arizona will participate in a training program using the Galileoscope to infuse astronomy and new science learning in their classrooms. The program will take place at the Arizona Center for STEM Training at the Biosphere 2 Institute, established in 2009 by Science Foundation to provide professional development training opportunities for Arizona educators. Utilizing the scopes, teachers will learn new, interactive curriculum that incorporates optics to excite pupils in understanding scientific concepts and how to apply them.
“Our students feel the excitement of seeing the rings of Saturn with this telescope,” said Don Budinger, Science Foundation Arizona board chairman. “Optics is huge growth market in Arizona and with the Galileoscopes and this type of innovative instruction we are motivating students to gain skill building and confidence and to think about science and math for their future career choices.”
“We’re fortunate to have an organization like Science Foundation Arizona advocating so effectively for science and astronomy literacy in Arizona and in Washington,” said Jeffrey Hall, Deputy Director of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.