SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION: The Galileoscope Challenge goes to Milwaukee!

Sept. 20, 2010

Spotlight on inspiring the next generation of scientists and business leaders.

How do you motivate children in underserved areas to learn about science, astronomy and optics? One successful approached used by the OSA Foundation (OSAF) is to provide students with their own high-quality telescopes through a program called the Galileoscope Challenge, a campaign to raise funds to distribute thousands of “build your own telescope kits” to students and teachers around the world.

As part of this program, the OSAF and two Optical Society (OSA) member volunteers traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for an outreach effort to middle and high school students. Over the course of four days, OSA members Carlos Lopez-Mariscal and Yasaman Soudagar led a series of 13 one-hour presentations to approximately 450 students and teachers in six schools. The presentations included a demonstration of lenses and their different functions, a brief history of Galileo Galilei and his contributions to science, and culminated in the assembly of Galileo’s telescope, the Galileoscope. Through a partnership with the Institute for the Transformation of Learning and a grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the OSAF was able to provide a Galileoscope to each participating student and teacher.

A video of the program in Milwaukee is viewable on You Tube.

Each school also received books and DVDs about Galileo and astronomy, activity guides with background information and experiments using lenses and the Galileoscopes, and star-charts so students can stargaze from home.

Soudagar, a Ph.D. candidate at École Polytechnique de Montréal, and Lopez-Mariscal, an optical scientist, provided hands-on guidance as the students assembled the telescopes. “It’s exciting to think that our presentations could influence a student to consider a career in science,” said Soudagar, “the entire experience was very rewarding.” “We were thrilled at the level of interest that the students displayed;” added Lopez-Mariscal, “they were very serious and attentive throughout the presentations.”

The OSAF plans to distribute 5,000 Galileoscopes in 2010, and expand the program to reach even more students and educators next year.“The Galileoscope Challenge is a way for students to not only view the marvels of astronomy, it is also a way to get them excited about optics;” said Meredith Smith, OSAF director, “programs like this can influence and inspire the next generation of scientists.”

The Galileoscope is a high-quality, low-cost telescope kit developed by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Working with a team of leading astronomers, optical engineers and science educators, the AAS created an easy-to-assemble telescope with a 50-mm f/10 achromatic refractor that snaps together in less than five minutes and gives great views of the celestial wonders that Galileo first glimpsed 400 years ago: lunar craters and mountains, Jupiter’s moons, the phases of Venus, Saturn's rings, and the Pleiades and Beehive star clusters invisible to the unaided eye. The telescope comes with a 25x eyepiece and 2x Barlow lens, accepts standard 1¼-inch accessories, and attaches to any photo tripod. Assembly instructions are available in English, Spanish, French, Finnish and Polish.

The OSA Foundation (OSAF) was established in 2002 to support philanthropic activities that help further the Optical Society's mission by concentrating its efforts on programs that advance youth science education, provide optics and photonics education to underserved populations, provide career and professional development resources and support awards & honors that recognize technical and business excellence. The grants funded by the OSA Foundation are made possible by the generous donations of its supporters as well as the dollar-for-dollar match by OSA. The Foundation is exempt from U.S. federal income taxes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is a public charity.

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is a family of more than 1,000 individual charitable funds, each created by donors to serve the local charitable causes of their choice. Grants from these funds serve people throughout Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, across the country and around the world. Started in 1915, the Foundation is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the world.

GRACE KLONOSKI is the Senior Director, Foundation, Membership & Education Services for the Optical Society of America, 2010 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20036; e-mail: [email protected];

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