Building a Map to the Universe
Below are slides from a workshop that I have delivered at various scientific conferences, such as the University of San Diego's STEAM Conference (August 2016). I can tailor this workshop for any grade level and even for college students and adults. The workshop can also be implemented within lesson plans that support the NGSS standards for Earth & planetary science and physics classrooms in middle school and high school.
For the workshop or lesson, the participants learn the following: a brief history of the universe; basic astronomy observing skills (naked eye astronomy); constructing and learning how to use their own star wheels; as well as learning how to use the star wheels and the provided "Galaxy Guide" (see below) to find constellations, planets, and deep space objects, such as black holes, galaxies, and exoplanets. The workshop/lesson is always customized for the geolocation (latitude and longitude) and date when given (stars and space objects vary by date, time, and location on Earth) so participants can practice what they learned that very evening and find where these objects are in the night sky.
"Building a Map to the Universe" Workshop Slides (also click here for PDF):
Galaxy Guide (click here for PDF):
For instructions on how to build your own star wheels for yourself, or your students, please go to Sky & Telescope's Make a Star Wheel Guide at the following website:
Solar Sail Design Challenge:
Below are instructions given to an 8th grade science class I taught during the fall of 2016 in Chula Vista, CA. These instruction guide the students in designing their own light sail (laser propulsion) spacecraft complete with mission proposal, instrument list, cost analysis, schematics, and artwork. The project was given at the end of the students' unit covering physics and Newton's laws of motion. After initial instruction in Newton's laws of motion, the students learned about Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner's new idea (see video below) to send a spacecraft the size of a wafer to our closest star and known exoplanet, Proxima Centauri b, which located over 4 light years away (roughly 40 trillion kilometers away) from Earth! This activity directly applies to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), engineering practices, and the NGSS standards for Newton's laws of motion. Below the instructions, are a few student examples of the schematics that they drafted for their project.