News Article | December 14, 2016
Huffman Engineering, Inc., a leader in control systems integration, today announced its recent hiring of Control Systems Engineer Craig Torgerson and Mechanical Engineer Tanner Grieve to support the company in its development and execution of turnkey automation projects for manufacturing and utility customers. “We are pleased to bring Craig and Tanner onboard the Huffman team,” said Howard Huffman, CEO, Huffman Engineering. “They bring excellent skills and enthusiasm to our experienced group of engineers.” Craig Torgerson joins Huffman Engineering as a control systems engineer. Torgerson most recently served as Mechanical Associate at Union Pacific where he worked with diesel-electric power systems and data center infrastructure. At Union Pacific he managed a Locomotive Servicing Facility and oversaw mechanical and electrical service of EMD and GE locomotives. A graduate of University of Nebraska, Torgerson gained professional experience during internships at Geist and Elkhorn Automotive. Tanner Grieve joins Huffman Engineering as a mechanical engineer. Grieve is a recent graduate of Illinois Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. While studying at IIT, he participated in a number of engineering projects, including co-leading an interdisciplinary team that created an interactive scientific exhibit at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium in order to increase public interest in STEM subjects. Huffman Engineering has a 29-year history of delivering large-scale system integration projects for highly regulated industries which require clients meet stringent regulatory requirements. Whether it is meeting requirements for FDA, EPA, or projects involving hazardous locations, Huffman Engineering builds robust reliable automation systems. About Huffman Engineering, Inc. Huffman Engineering, Inc. is CSIA Certified control systems integration company offering turnkey engineering design and control systems integration services to manufacturing and utility customers. The company’s highly-skilled team of electrical/mechanical engineers, and experienced technicians practice a proven, results-driven project methodology to consistently deliver optimal industrial automation solutions. Based in Lincoln, Nebraska, Huffman Engineering has served the Midwest since 1987, specializing in pharmaceutical, life science, machine, and utility process control applications. For more information, visit HuffmanEng.com.
News Article | January 28, 2016
A team of scientists from China and the United States have discovered how relatively young stars are able to make their way into dense collections of older stars known as globular clusters. While it was initially thought that these clusters form their stars all at the same time, it has been revealed that they are also capable of producing thousands of second and even third generations of sibling stars. In a study featured in the journal Nature, researchers from Peking University and the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) in China and the Adler Planetarium and Northwestern University (NU) in the U.S. have found that globular clusters are capable of taking in gas from outside sources, which can then lead to the formation of new stars. This discovery contradicts an earlier notion that it is the aging stars themselves that shed gas in order to trigger the creation of newer stars. Chengyuan Li, a researcher from Peking's Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (KIAA) and lead author of the study, explained that their research offers new perspective on how several stellar populations are able to form as part of star clusters. Their findings suggest that the gas from which new stars are formed likely originates from outside globular clusters rather than from the inside. This event can be compared to how some people choose to adopt kids instead of having biological children of their own with their partners. Globular clusters are capable of producing their own progeny of stars, but it appears that they would rather "adopt" young stars, or at the very least the materials with which new stars can be formed. "Our explanation that secondary stellar populations originate from gas accreted from the clusters' environments is the strongest alternative idea put forward to date," KIAA astronomer Richard de Grijs said. "Globular clusters have turned out to be much more complex than we once thought." The Milky Way is known to contain hundreds of spherical and densely packed globular clusters at its outskirts. A large number of these clusters are already quite old, which is why Li and his colleagues chose to focus their study on younger clusters. The team found their target clusters in two dwarf galaxies known as the Magellanic Clouds. Through the use of data gathered from observations of the Hubble Space Telescope, the researchers were able to identify three particular globular clusters: NGC 1696 and NGC 1783 found in the Large Magellanic Cloud and NGC 411 found in the Small Magellanic Cloud. In the NGC 1783 star cluster, Li and his team identified an initial stellar population that is already 1.4 billion years old, as well as two other stellar populations that are 450 million years old and 890 million years old. The difference in the ages of the star populations was first thought to be because of their ability to retain dust and gas enough to produce several generations of stars. However, this appears to be unlikely according to the researchers. NU astronomer Aaron M. Geller said that after massive stars are formed, they only have an estimated 10 million years before they meet their end in powerful supernovae that can eliminate any remaining dust or gas in the surrounding area. After the explosion, lower-mass stars would then trigger an accumulation of dust and gas in the area once again. The researchers believe globular clusters take up material from stray dust and gas as they move about their host galaxies. Li and his colleagues are now planning to extend their study to globular clusters in the Milky Way other than Magellanic Cloud.
News Article | January 20, 2016
Natalie Panek has been staring up at the stars with curiosity and wonder ever since she was a child growing up in the Canadian Rockies, when camping and hiking excursions meant plenty of weekends spent in the back country, where she’d gaze at the sky. Watching TV shows like Star Trek and Stargate SG-1 with her mom made things even clearer for her: Space was calling, and she’d answer by making it her life’s work. Today, Panek is a mission systems engineer in robotics and automation at Canada’s MDA Corp. outside Toronto, where her team is building the chassis and locomotion system for the European Space Agency’s 2018 ExoMars Rover. Of course, it's easy for stories like hers to get lost amid the breathless news coverage of the space industry today. The central figure in that narrative is often a certain space-obsessed male billionaire whose private company's rocket has pulled off an extraordinary landing, and who captures our imagination with ambitions to make space travel eventually commonplace. When Panek isn't helping build and test rovers, she says, she's working hard to make sure women see reflections of themselves in her industry. "We live in an age where what we see and hear in the media is hugely influential," Panek says. "Having positive role models in the media can change the game and allow young people to see engineering and technology as fields that are attainable by anyone." She points to prominent women in the field like Dava Newman, the recently appointed deputy administrator of NASA; European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti; and Gwynne Shotwell, the president and COO of SpaceX. Panek also relishes the chance to share her own story, which is one reason she’s set up her website, thepanekroom.com, to talk about her work, her adventures, and philosophy about the field. "We need to inspire girls at a young age to see the potential in science, engineering, technology, and math fields," Panek says. "The second part of the problem is retaining women in STEM fields throughout their careers, which means stopping the leaky pipeline that’s so common. It's not enough to talk about record enrollment in engineering or computer science courses in university. A wider perspective is necessary, which looks at the statistics regarding women advancing in their careers into leadership, director-level, and board-level positions." Dr. Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, likewise sees diversity in her industry as imperative—not just as a good unto itself, but one with plenty of research to back up the benefits. She points to a report on recruiting women into technical positions that was prepared by the Anita Borg Institute. Among its findings: That there are "consistent blind spots in recruiting and hiring practices" that manifest themselves in things like narrow recruitment criteria, hiring processes that are implicitly biased, and a lack of organizational infrastructure to support diversity efforts. The paper recommends steps like setting up blind resume screening processes; showcasing technical women during the interview process; and requiring that every open technical position has a viable female candidate. "I'm always surprised that people from science and engineering will bring their best data and technical chops to tackle scientific and engineering challenges, but then, when it comes to improving the diversity of their workforce, they often act like there's no research to inform what their approach should be," Walkowicz says. "The research exists, both on recruiting and on the myriad benefits of diverse teams. We owe it to scientific progress to do better in this regard, so that we can bring the brightest and most capable minds into unlocking the secrets of our universe." Walkowicz's own interest in the field was piqued early when she fell in love with chemistry and physics in high school. She wanted a career that combined both of them, and in the summer after her junior year of high school, she participated in a research program at the New York Academy of Sciences that would point the way. She worked in a physics lab there during the week. "When the summer was over, I asked the woman who matched students to their host labs whether she knew if anyone would work with me during the school year. She suggested that astronomy might be something that would combine the sciences I liked. I went to work with a professor at New York University who studied the chemistry of planetary atmospheres, and I was hooked." As an astronomer today, there’s both a research and a public education component to her work. The research part includes things like writing computer code to analyze data, and writing papers that convey what she’s learned. On the public side, sometimes she’s speaking with planetarium guests. Last fall, she participated in the first Adler Galaxy Ride, a biking science road show from Chicago to St. Louis that included putting on free pop-up science events in cities and towns along the way. She’s also working on a new project called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which she says is "the flagship observatory for the next decade of astronomy." "The telescope itself is currently being built down in Chile, but there’s a lot to do to prepare for it," Walkowicz says. "I coordinate our science collaborations, the community of hundreds of scientists who will eventually use this amazing telescope to tackle some of the most challenging scientific questions we face. I also recently became the director of the LSST Data Science Fellowship Program; these schools will teach junior astronomers the skills they need to use the deluge of LSST data." Vinita Marwaha Madill, a consultant in space engineering and STEM outreach and the founder of Rocket Women, a website focused on women and space, likewise wants to encourage more women to enter the field. Madill's career included stints as an engineering manager leading the Intelligent Transportation Systems Engineering Team in Canada, and as an International Space Station operations engineer at the German Aerospace Center, among other things. "Being a consultant, my typical day varies, depending on the projects I’m working on," Madill says, "from writing a parabolic flight grant proposal, to explaining the nuances of Apollo era spacesuit design—and even discussing diversity." Her fascination with space goes back to when she was 6 and growing up in London, when she learned about Helen Sharman, a chemist and the first British astronaut, who flew to Mir. Her parents also helped, taking her to places like the National Space Center in Leicester, England, on the weekends. One suggestion she has for how to encourage more young women to think about careers in space, science, and related fields that involve technology is to focus on the impact of that technology on people. She points to the design of a satellite, which "as my brilliant and late International Space University professor put it, is ‘an ugly white box.’" Nevertheless, she goes on, initiatives around the world are being pursued to spread affordable Internet access through constellations of micro satellites, giving rural communities a chance at high-speed Internet access and access to better education and knowledge. "The impact of the project," she says, "is where I believe you can inspire an increasing number of girls to study engineering and space." On Rocket Women, she posts interviews with women around the world in STEM fields, especially space-related, as well as advice to encourage girls to become involved in STEM. "Watching Helen Sharman’s Soyuz launch on BBC News at a young age, and knowing that there had been a British female astronaut, helped me push through any negativity around my chosen career path when I was younger," Madill says. "I knew that I wanted to be an astronaut, or at least work in human space flight. And eventually I did. But I wouldn’t have had that impetus and drive if I hadn’t known that someone had come before me. There had been a female British astronaut, and maybe there could be again. It was possible. Through featuring advice and stories of women in STEM, I want Rocket Women to give other girls and women that same realization."
News Article | January 27, 2016
Instead of having all their stellar progeny at once, globular clusters can somehow bear second or even third sets of thousands of sibling stars. Now a new study led by researchers at the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (KIAA) at Peking University, and including astronomers at Northwestern University, the Adler Planetarium and the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), might explain these puzzling, successive stellar generations. Using observations by the Hubble Space Telescope, the research team has for the first time found young populations of stars within globular clusters that have apparently developed courtesy of star-forming gas flowing in from outside of the clusters themselves. This method stands in contrast to the conventional idea of the clusters' initial stars shedding gas as they age in order to spark future rounds of star birth. The study will be published in the Jan. 28 issue of the journal Nature. "This study offers new insight on the problem of multiple stellar populations in star clusters," said study lead author Chengyuan Li, an astronomer at KIAA and NAOC who also is affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Purple Mountain Observatory. "Our study suggests the gaseous fuel for these new stellar populations has an origin that is external to the cluster, rather than internal." In a manner of speaking, globular clusters appear capable of "adopting" baby stars—or at least the material with which to form new stars—rather than creating more "biological" children as parents in a human family might choose to do. "Our explanation that secondary stellar populations originate from gas accreted from the clusters' environments is the strongest alternative idea put forward to date," said Richard de Grijs, also an astronomer at KIAA and Chengyuan's Ph.D. advisor. "Globular clusters have turned out to be much more complex than we once thought." Globular clusters are spherical, densely packed groups of stars orbiting the outskirts of galaxies. Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, hosts several hundred. Most of these local, massive clusters are quite old, however, so the KIAA-led research team turned their attention to young and intermediate-aged clusters found in two nearby dwarf galaxies, collectively called the Magellanic Clouds. Specifically, the researchers used Hubble observations of the globular clusters NGC 1783 and NGC 1696 in the Large Magellanic Cloud, along with NGC 411 in the Small Magellanic Cloud. Scientists routinely infer the ages of stars by looking at their colors and brightnesses. Within NGC 1783, for example, Li, de Grijs and colleagues identified an initial population of stars aged 1.4 billion years, along with two newer populations that formed 890 million and 450 million years ago. What is the most straightforward explanation for these unexpectedly differing stellar ages? Some globular clusters might retain enough gas and dust to crank out multiple generations of stars, but this seems unlikely, said study co-author Aaron M. Geller of Northwestern University and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. "Once the most massive stars form, they are like ticking time bombs, with only about 10 million years until they explode in powerful supernovae and clear out any remaining gas and dust," Geller said. "Afterwards, the lower-mass stars, which live longer and die in less violent ways, may allow the cluster to build up gas and dust once again." The KIAA-led research team proposes that globular clusters can sweep up stray gas and dust they encounter while moving about their respective host galaxies. The theory of newborn stars arising in clusters as they "adopt" interstellar gases actually dates back to a 1952 paper. More than a half-century later, this once speculative idea suddenly has key evidence to support it. In the study, the KIAA researchers analyzed Hubble observations of these star clusters, and then Geller and his Northwestern colleague Claude-André Faucher-Giguère carried out calculations that show this theoretical explanation is possible in the globular clusters this team studied. "We have now finally shown that this idea of clusters forming new stars with accreted gas might actually work," de Grijs said, "and not just for the three clusters we observed for this study, but possibly for a whole slew of them." Future studies will aim to extend the findings to other Magellanic Cloud as well as Milky Way globular clusters. More information: Formation of new stellar populations from gas accreted by massive young star clusters, Nature, nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature16493
News Article | January 28, 2016
At a first glance, the globular cluster NGC 1783 looks like a high concentration of pockmarks of light bursting their way through a black expanse. Located roughly 160,000 light-years from the Earth, the massive stellar cluster boasts a mass equivalent to 170,000 suns. The cluster is one of the biggest and brightest located in the Large Magellanic Cloud satellite galaxy. Previously, scientists thought stellar clusters formed in a single outburst from a progenitor cloud. But by studying clusters like NGC 1783, scientists from the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Northwestern Univ., and the Adler Planetarium have found that globular clusters can give birth to second and third sets of thousands of sibling stars after the initial progeny. Their research was published in Nature. According to the researchers, NGC 1783 bore populations of stars around 4.1 billion years ago, 890 million years ago, and 450 million years ago. “Such clusters could have accreted sufficient gas from new stars if they had orbited in their host galaxies’ gaseous disks throughout the period between their initial formation and the more recent bursts of star formation,” the researchers wrote. “This process may eventually give rise to ubiquitous multiple stellar populations in globular clusters.” NGC 1783 was first observed by English astronomer John Herschel in 1835. The researchers also studied NGC 1696, which is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, and NGC 411, located in the Small Magellanic Cloud. Each of the star clusters is between 1 and 2 billion years old. According to Space.com, NGC 1696 is about 160,000 light-years from Earth and is 50,000 solar masses; NGC 411 is about 190,000 light-years away and about 32,000 solar masses. At first, the researchers considered the theory that globular clusters retain enough gas and dust to create new stars throughout their lifetimes. However, this explanation was refuted by the idea that massive stars in globular clusters live for about 10 million years before exploding as supernovae. This would cause any gas and dust nearby to be blown away. The sweeping theory adopted by the researchers was actually proposed in 1952. “We have now finally shown that this idea of clusters forming new stars with accreted gas might actually work,” said Richard de Grijs, of the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, “and not just for the three clusters we observed for this study, but possibly for a whole slew of them.”
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 249.56K | Year: 2010
Participation in authentic research projects can be a powerful way to engage students in science and introduce them to the computational tools that are used in science research. However, finding an authentic project in which students can participate is time consuming for educators, both in terms of finding an appropriate project and preparing curriculum to support its use in the classroom. Citizen science ? the involvement of non-professionals in the research enterprise ? has been successfully adapted to the classroom by programs such as Cornell University?s Lab of Ornithology. Current efforts across citizen science projects tend to be focused on students reporting back fieldwork or stop at providing subject area lesson plans that relate to the topic of the research study. Thus, they do not have a strong connection to the subsequent analysis conducted by the researchers: there is no introduction to the significant computational tools that are used by scientists after students contribute data to arrive at research results. Additionally, the lesson plans are generally developed as part of the setup of the project, and have no sustainable way to continue expanding or be applied to new projects without additional influx of funding. In collaboration with the Adler, the Zooniverse Citizen Science Alliance has developed a framework called ZooTeach to support educators in the development and sharing of classroom curriculum, which can be easily implemented across Zooniverse research projects. The team in this demonstration project is first to refining the existing ZooTeach resource, seeding with pilot resources, expanding, and disseminating this framework with and to formal and informal educators. In doing so, the team is developing a set of best practices for how citizen science projects can be used in the classroom to encourage exploration of computing in an authentic science workforce context.
The Adler team is led by Nancy Ross Dribin, director of interactive media, in collaboration with the Adler education department and Dr. Chris Lintott, director of citizen science initiatives and founding member of the Zooniverse. An advisory board of seven people, including a mix of leading figures in Chicago Public Schools, educational technology, and computational science instruction, inform the project.
With the successful completion of this project, the Adler will:
? Evaluate and refine the existing ZooTeach structure to ensure that it supports and encourages educator use. Expected outcomes include both visiting to find resources and contributing to resource development as direct authors as well as reviewers. Working with educators to provide such an environment will provide valuable information to projects looking to encourage educator-contributed materials.
? Create an interactive to support the use of the Zoos as an introduction to the use of computational tools in science research. By supporting non-project educators as the primary contributors of curriculum, this opens the possibility of using future funding to create more specific, complex resources that facilitate connecting the citizen science task completed by students and the computational tools and analysis conducted by the team scientists.
This project will:
? Promote use of Zoo Teach at appropriate formal and informal educator conferences and in professional development at the Adler. In addition to encouraging use of Zoo Teach by educators and in informal education professional development programs, this will also enable team members to disseminate project findings to peers.
? Evaluate the effectiveness of an open, contributory approach to lesson plan development in relation to citizen science projects. As noted above, this evaluation will be disseminated via conferences as well as via the Adler?s website and via electronic communications with peers. It will provide valuable information about the effectiveness of and best practices for following this approach.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SOCIAL-COMPUTATIONAL SYSTEMS | Award Amount: 395.90K | Year: 2012
The goal of this project is to develop a next-generation socio-computational citizen science platform that combines the efforts of human classifiers with those of computational systems to maximize the efficiency with which human attention can be used. Dealing with the flood of digital data that confronts researchers is the fundamental challenge of twenty-first century research. New techniques, tools and strategies for dealing with massive data sets, whether they consist of vast numbers of base-pair DNA sequences or terabytes of data from all-sky astronomical surveys, present an opportunity to establish a new paradigm of scientific discovery, but the task is not easy. In many areas of research, the relentless growth of data sets has led to the adoption of increasingly automated and unsupervised methods of classification. In many cases, this has led to degradation in classification quality, with machine learning and computer vision unable to replicate the successes of human pattern recognition. The growth of citizen science on the web has provided a temporary solution to this problem, demonstrating that it is possible to recruit hundreds of thousands of volunteers to make an authentic contribution to results, boosting human analysis through the collective wisdom of a crowd of classifiers. However, human classifiers alone will not be able to cope with expected flood of data from future scientific instruments.
This research will be carried out by a partnership between computer and social scientists, addressing research problems both in automated data analysis and social science through systems implementation, alongside field research and experiments with project participants. The intellectual merit of this project lies in its contribution to advancing knowledge and understanding in multiple domains of science. First, the work will contribute to developing new methods of computational data analysis, initially with analysis of astronomical images, and later extending to additional fields. Second, the project includes social science research to test and apply theories of human motivation and learning in an online context, which can then be applied to a broad range of social-computational problems. By mixing human and computational elements, the planned system has the potential to transform the application of citizen science and its approach to data analysis.
This project will advance science while promoting teaching, training and learning. One of the most significant broader impacts for its citizen science activities is enabling a community of hundreds of thousands of volunteers to participate in research, a powerful and rapidly developing form of informal science education. By choosing the relatively generic topic of image classification, beginning with astronomy but not limited to that field of science, the techniques developed under this grant will be of significant value to future investigations in similar research areas, thus enhancing the infrastructure for research and education.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Cyber-Human Systems (CHS) | Award Amount: 134.86K | Year: 2016
This research aims to improve the efficiency, accuracy, and usability of online systems supporting citizen science, in which communities organized around serious scientific research projects combine the contributions of amateurs and professionals. In order to respond most efficiently to the increasing data deluge across multiple domains, citizen science platforms need to be more dynamic and complex - incorporating intelligent task assignment and machine learning strategies. Systems that make use of both human and machine intelligence are of interest to scientists from a wide range of disciplines. Whether viewed as social machines or as active learning systems in which progressive input from humans improves machine learning, these hybrid systems exhibit complex behavior which needs to be understood for effective system design. For example, machine learning researchers have concentrated on using the large training sets produced by citizen science projects in order to train algorithms that are later applied to a full dataset. Yet this serial processing may not be the most efficient use of the human or machine effort. The main research goal of this project is to investigate how the overall efficiency of the combined human-machine system is impacted by the separate components and their related properties and what the implications are for either human or machine classifiers or both. This process will test the hypothesis that improved overall efficiency will actually reduce the load on expert human classifiers instead of, as currently required, needing larger expert training sets for machines.
This project will investigate the dynamic combination of human and machine classifiers, gaining for the first time knowledge of how load can be optimally shared in a real, flexible citizen science platform. This research effort will be supported by building and deploying software modules on the existing Zooniverse infrastructure, the world-leading platform for online citizen science. It will (1) carry out efficient and dynamic task assignment, distinguishing in near-real time between experienced and inexperienced, and between skilled and less skilled classifiers; and (2) combine human and machine classifications dynamically, periodically training automatic classification routines on the increasing volume of training data produced by volunteers. This new software will then be utilized in a novel cascade filtering mode that reduces complex classification problems into a series of single binary tasks. The software developed in this project will provide domain scientists and social machine researchers who wish to exploit the new infrastructure with a fully flexible suite of functions appropriate to the needs defined by their specific problems.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Particle Astrophysics/Cosmic P | Award Amount: 474.63K | Year: 2012
Intellectual Merit VERITAS is currently the most sensitive VHE gamma-ray observatory in the world. Operating at the basecamp of the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona, the VERITAS project expands the Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescope technique pioneered by its precursor, the Whipple 10m Telescope, to include an array of four 12m telescopes with a multitelescope trigger for an order-of-magnitude improved sensitivity over the previous generation. VERITAS probes the extreme physics of sources such as the jets of Active Galactic Nuclei, Supernovae Remnants, and microquasars and provides an important complement to the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. This award will provide support for the VERITAS science and collaboration service efforts of the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum researchers. The Adler group will lead the development and optimization of advanced gamma-ray analysis methods to increase the performance of VERITAS and play a leading role in calibration efforts. The Adlers science efforts will utilize the improved array performance in the study of extended supernova remnants and pulsar wind nebulae focusing on the case of the Crab Nebula, particularly in light of the recent discovery of the rapid bright synchrotron flares detected by Fermi.
Broader Impact The Adler serves as the lead institution for VERITAS Education and Outreach efforts. Beyond the management aspects of the VERITAS EPO effort, the Adler VERITAS scientists will engage in a variety of efforts including hosting undergraduate interns from collaborating VERITAS institutions, participating in the daily Astronomy Conversations held at the Adler Planetariums Space Visualization Laboratory, investigating the feasibility of a Citizen Science project to distinguish gamma rays from cosmic rays, and providing planetarium expertise to the VERITAS project office to develop a VERITAS-themed show.
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 137.51K | Year: 2015
This project will build upon the infrastructure of Zooniverse.org to create authentic research experiences for introductory astronomy students. Education research indicates that including authentic research in science classes improves attitudes towards science and scientists in a diverse cross-section of students. The curriculum materials will be tested and refined at a broad spectrum of institutional settings before dissemination.
Introductory astronomy generally provides students little insight into the realities of being a scientist. This project will address this deficiency by introducing an authentic research experience for students into the astronomy for non-majors curriculum. It will utilize the classification and meta-data exploration capabilities of the Zooniverse platform. The proposed course curriculum will support students in building foundational research skills and practices through a series of in-class activities and a semester-long group research project. These activities will employ a state-of-the-art online platform to explore data collection, manipulation, and interpretation within the core topics in the curriculum. The project team will assess student learning and attitudinal gains through traditional in-class testing and conceptual questioning that is embedded within the Zooniverse online environment, as well as student interviews. This includes assessing the impact of the research experience on students understanding of the nature of science, conceptual astronomy learning gains (e.g. the Zooniverse Astronomical Concept Survey, Prather et al, 2013), and interest in pursuing a STEM major. The team will also assess the impact of different implementations of the online platform as well as the ease of implementation of the new curricular materials in a variety of institutional settings, course structures, and content focus. They will use the insight gained to develop the most effective curricular and training materials. All curricular materials, instructional guides, online Zooniverse tools, and underlying code will be widely disseminated.