Youth for Astronomy and Engineering Program 2011 Highlights

Tania Anderson, tanderson@stsci.edu

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 from the greater Baltimore area. One of these activities is our Astronomy Club, where middle and high school students convene monthly to share ideas with others who love astronomy. In the fall, the participants engaged in amateur telescope observations lead by colleagues at the Harford Astronomical Society in Harford County, Maryland.  Astronomy Club participants were also given the opportunity to explore the physics of light and lenses. The Office of Public Outreach led this hands-on activity. Fifty percent of the club’s participants have attended at least one other past YAE engagement.

Dr. Rosa Diaz volunteers her time and shares her daily professional world with these young people, some of whom may become our next-generation of scientists and engineers. Dr. Diaz recently selected one particularly talented participant from the Astronomy Club and is mentoring her participation in an actual research effort at the Institute called “NICMOS Photometric Cross Calibrators for JWST.”

The YAE Program continues to collaborate with the Maryland Science Center, giving students in the Astronomy Club an opportunity to explore all that this Center has to offer.

In the fall, YAE held its annual Parent & Child Evening under the Stars. This year, Drs. Dara Norman and David Soderblom were the guest speakers. Dara presented “Light Matters for Dark Matter” and David presented “The Story of Our Sun as Told by the Stars.” Many of these students will return to become regular attendees of our yearly YAE program events.

With funds from a grant awarded by the National Girls Collaborative Project, the YAE Program purchased a computer-controlled 6-inch telescope. YAE collaborated with students and teachers at Western High School for an afternoon of solar observing. The observations took place after Dr. Soderblom enlightened the students at Western about the Sun and how it works.

The YAE staff develops and organizes fun-filled and engaging programs that succeed in encouraging local area students to explore their interests in astronomy and engineering and, at the same time, explore the wonders of the Universe.