The Hands On Universe Project
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
One Cyclotron Road, MS 50/232
Berkeley, CA 94720 USA
v: (510) 486-7429
The Hands-On Universe Program
All other creatures look down toward the earth, but man was given a face so that he might turn his eyes toward the stars and his gaze upon the sky. Ovid
The “Hands-On Universe” High School Astronomy Project allows students to use personal computers in their classrooms to request, acquire, and study astronomical images taken with remote telescopes and Charge Coupled Device (“CCD”) detectors. We are developing curriculum materials which are interactive and process oriented that utilize original data sets.
This project emphasizes the use of intellectual and physical tools to support inquiry, spreading the emphasis from simply learning concepts and results to the processes of science. It aims to introduce students to central mathematical and scientific concepts in a context of technologically-supported active learning. In addition, it seeks to use networking and communications technology to link students and professionals in genuinely collaborative and “apprenticeship” style interactions. All of these are the results of a shift in the learning goals (toward processes), in learning means (technological support, networking), and motivational contexts (collaborative, professionally relevant research).
Program and Material Development:
We brought together the Hands-On Universe team for a workshop on curriculum development in July of 1992. It was there that we outlined our goals, and determined the methods and approach that we will use to develop materials. Over the next three years we are committed to creating a minimum of eight curriculum units for classroom use. The units will be written by Hands-On Universe scientists and teachers and Tim Barclay at TERC. Working closely with Hands-On universe Academic Specialist, Silvia Gabi, U.C. Education School Graduate Student, Jeff Friedman and a review panel comprised of several of the teacher participants, Tim will be responsible for creation of the units, coordinating field tests, and formative evaluation. He will also work with us to construct a model for teacher training and dissemination. Development of curriculum units is the highest Hands-On Universe priority. We currently have a combination of six tutorials and curriculum units under development. The units are:
- Hands-On Universe Image processing Tutorial
- Hands-On Universe Astronomy Tutorial
- Variable Star Unit
- Lunar Topography
- Nearby InfraRed Supernovae Search
- Weighing Jupiter
Networking and Software
The current system uses high-end, low cost PC’s in high school classrooms to process images taken at Leuschner Observatory, by the U. C. Berkeley Astronomy Department 30″ and 20″ telescopes. Our system can use images from any CCDE equipped observatory around the world with modest changes in file format. As of January 15,1993 we have been utilizing a dial-in system to downIoad archived images and to take new image requests for the Leuschner Automated Telescopes. Substantial recent advances in computer and imaging hardware, software, and networks now allow this type of curriculum to be widely and relatively inexpensively disseminated.
High School student, Hannan Herzog, and HOU teacher/participant Hughes Pack along with Silvia Gabi and Kinshuk Govil here at LBL have done a great deal of work on setting up an image transfer system over electronic networks. In addition Kinshuk has written an image request interface program for requesting images from the Leuschner Telescopes within a Windows environment. We have also written a sophisticated installation routine to facilitate loading of the software.
We now have, in place at LBL, computer accounts for most of the teachers currently participating in the program. With this “HOUnet” they can access their accounts by logging in over local Interment nodes, to request images and share information with us. They can also conference and communicate with each other, and with other educators and scientists all over the world. For those teachers who do not have local access to Internet, we have set up an 800 number and given them e’mail accounts here at LBL. We also intend to set up a bulletin board and publish an electronic newsletter. Teachers participating our program will be able to collaborate with us and with each other on projects in a “real-time” fashion, and the virtual isolation of teachers and students in their classrooms will be ended. We are currently conducting a needs assessment and working with teachers who do not have the requisite hardware to help them to obtain what they need so that they can get on-line and start to utilize the system.
We successfully demonstrated Win Vista during the Hands-On Universe image processing workshop at the 1992 AAPT summer Meeting in Orono, Maine and got a great deal of feedback on the user interface and other features that we should integrate into the software. We released a beta test version of Win Vista in mid December 1992 and a subsequent upgrade in March of 1993. We will continue to refine and test the Win Vista software during the initial curriculum development phase and use what we learn in this process to create a better image processing software package for the hands-On Universe system. We anticipate the release of a new HOU image processing program at the HOU Formative Evaluation and Teacher Training Workshop that will be held in Macon, Georgia in July of 1993.
Public Understanding of Science
The HOU program will soon be transferred to public science arena through the collaborative efforts of the Hands-On Universe staff, the Boston Museum of Science, the Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences, and the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC). The Hands-On Universe and museum partners are constructing and testing a model which uses science museums and technology centers as regional dissemination nodes for the Hands-On Universe program. These “nodes would distribute materials, train teachers, and serve as electronic network connection points for HOU participant schools and the community at large.
The Hands-On Universe has been working to develop prototype museum programs with the Boston Museum of Science, the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, and ASTC (the Association of Science Technology Centers). The hands-On Universe museum collaboration has come up with a three-point museum program based on contemporary astrophysics research. The realization of the Hands-On Universe museum program involves three components. These include: an interactive exhibit with image processing capabilities with which museum visitors can examine previously studied images and new images never studied before; complementing the exhibit will be an interactive planetarium exhibit, with audience participation in some of the major questions of modern astrophysics and cosmology; the final part of this coordinated program will be a computer resource room, which will be used for image processing by teachers, classes on field trips, and drop-in use by parents and students. These three components feed into each other and emphasize different aspects of the strengths and power of this kind of learning. Each of these components will be designed in such a way to allow for replication and dissemination on a large scale.