Youth for Astronomy and Engineering Program 2010 Highlights

Tania Anderson,

The Youth for Astronomy and Engineering (YAE) program, in the Community Missions Office at the Institute, develops and offers a variety of science- and engineering-oriented programs and activities for young people across the greater Baltimore area. New this year is our Astronomy Club (AC), which convenes middle and high school students in the Baltimore region monthly to share ideas with others who love astronomy.  Club participants are given the opportunity to analyze scientific data from the Hubble Space Telescope with guidance from Institute astronomers. Rosa Diaz volunteers her time as the AC Science Lead, to share her daily professional world with these young minds, who have the potential to become our next-generation scientists and engineers. During field trips to other organizations that promote education and science, such as the Maryland Science Center, students participate in routine solar and stellar observations using high-tech amateur telescopes.

Each summer, families in the local community visit the Institute on Family Nights. This past summer, guest speakers John Grunsfeld and Brian Ferguson spoke to a packed auditorium. As Grunsfeld shared stories of his journey to become an astronaut and the work he has done on Hubble, one young audience member commented, “This is way cooler than meeting a star on TV!”

In the fall, YAE held its annual Parent & Child Evening under the Stars. This year, Heidi Hammel and Derrick Pitts were the guest speakers. The Institute’s Office of Public Outreach (OPO) led the students through a variety of hands-on activities to demonstrate the properties of light.  OPO also engages the participants in an annual Young Women’s Science Forum, an all-day, hands-on activity extravaganza.  These young women leave the Institute with a new level of understanding and excitement about science. Many of them return to become regular attendees of our yearly YAE program events.

The over-arching goal of the YAE program is to provide fun-filled and engaging ways to nurture budding interest in astronomy and engineering, and to endow our local community’s youth with a heightened awareness of their place in the universe.