2021 Recommended Projects

Every year, the OAD receives numerous, good quality proposals that we are unable to support. We compile these projects on to a ‘Recommended List’, which is shared here for the benefit of potential funders. The 2021 Recommended List has 17 projects. Read the project summaries below.

Please contact us to support or collaborate with one or more of the projects.

Project Title Target Countries Summary
Teaching Astronomy to non-astronomy teachers Mexico

This project strives to develop capacities of middle and high school teachers, especially those related to STEM courses in order to increase their student’s engagement and learning outcomes. This will be achieved by designing, implementing and evaluating a comprehensive capacity building strategy that will use Astronomy Teaching as a tool. This project will provide teachers with abilities and tools to teach an Astronomy course, but we aim to develop other teaching and cognitive skills including critical thinking, scientific approach, systems thinking and earth consciousness.

Our target audience are middle and high school teachers around Mexico. We will promote this initiative with the support of our partners of ITESM and Ministries of Education in different regions of Mexico. They will publicize the information in order to reach a diverse range of teachers in the country. Our goal is to serve at least 25 teachers and we estimate to impact around 2,500 students overall.

The implementation plan includes four phases. The first phase consists in the development and implementation of online course for teachers willing to replicate the Astro Course in their school. This implies the design of media contents, teacher’s manual and the digitalization of the course in a learning management system. The second phase consists in giving continuous on-going support to teachers. After completing the online course, teachers will participate in peer-to-peer and expert support sessions. In the third phase, teachers and students altogether will be part of a digital Stargazing session that will be co-developed by teachers and guided by an expert Astronomy Teacher. The fourth phase consists in an impact evaluation, by which we will at least assess the degree to which the intervention contributes to teacher’s development as well as student’s engagement. Prosociedad, our NGO partner, will be in charge of this phase which will also serve to the improvement and scalability of this.

Coded in the stars Bolivia

This project aims to reinforce the programming and analytical skills of students in Bolivia through the use of astronomical data and increase the visibilization of women in science. CML, FJI, and SDG are professional astrophysicists; MZPR is a language teacher. We plan 2 weeks of activities:

-Week 1: Workshop (25 hr) for ~30 science students in their final years at University Mayor de San Simón (Cochabamba) to introduce them into the enthralling world of Astronomy and Computer Programming. Daily introductory lectures (~5 hr) will be followed by hands-on sessions (~20 hr) in a computer room. On the first day, students will gather their own astronomical data using professional telescopes remotely, accessible through our host institutions. The students will propose to observe astrophysical objects, once they become familiar with the use of free-access online databases. They will inductively learn about the need for reduction of astronomical images and how to calibrate the data. For the rest of the week, the students will develop their own data reduction and analysis pipelines using Python. They will analyse the radial luminosity profiles of a galaxy and the optical variability of a binary star (previously collected data) with the aid of advanced computer techniques to manipulate large databases. Open-source software will be used for data visualisation and analysis, including time-series.

-Week 2: Daily talks with interactive activities (~1hr) focused on gender equality in local secondary schools about remarkable (but mostly unknown) female astronomers and their achievements. We will also arrange 2hr sessions for ~30 student groups in which they will use remotely professional telescopes. These activities will be led by the women in our team, to exemplify women’s leadership in science.

Dissemination of the activities is guaranteed through a dedicated blog and social media accounts “Coded in the stars”, liaised with IAU, IAC, UNSW, and local media.

Public Astronomy Portal Global (All countries)

We propose to build a multilingual public astronomy portal for quick access to the best available astronomy webpages. The portal may serve as a starting point and a

general guide for the public interested in astronomy from all over the world. Through this webpage we will draw a link between science and public and by this informal education will be promoted. We will create a website that is easily accessible, simply navigable and still contains all available professional knowledge related to astronomy and space sciences. There are many qualitative and quantitative webpages on public astronomy, but until now there is no complete webpage covering all the information related to all the spheres of public astronomy. Multilingual Public Astronomy Portal is a great guide for the public interested in astronomy from all over the world.  Here you can simply navigate in 40 main landing pages and find the core links that you need. This is a unique webpage covering all the information related to all the spheres of public astronomy in 24 languages by this we involve public from all the corners of the world, as well as the webpage serves as a portal to astronomy for the South West Asian regional countries. Our team especially emphasizes the involvement of modern communication methods, such as forums, social networks, blogs, etc. Here the educational pages are also heavily involved. This webpage also supports IAU Division C activities (“Education, Outreach and Heritage”). The implementation of the project is designed in a way that all the work should be done online. The workers do not even need to go out from their homes.

Solar-powered Computer Labs for the Underprivileged Nepali Youth Nepal

The core project idea is to build computer labs in our school, powered by solar energy and complete with laptops, printers, and projectors. We will close the digital divide by providing these deserving students with access to more than just educational tools, but access to the rest of the world. Internet access opens an innumerable myriad of opportunities. Students will gain educational resources that complement their existing classes. For example, teachers can print out additional worksheets for math, lead collaborative group projects for English, or teach mapping software for astronomy. They will have access to a world of art and culture that was previously closed off to them. They will gain social connections by being able to contact their sponsors. And finally, learning technology and digital software prepares students with the tools to compete for higher level jobs after graduating from the Hoste Hainse school.

The target audience are the 700 underprivileged students (grades ECD- 10) that attend the Hoste Hainse Dhangada school, which is a non-profit community school established 20 years ago for the marginalized communities of Sarlahi, an under-developed region in southern Nepal. Hoste Hainse is an organization that provides education, free-of-cost, to children living in remote areas of Nepal where poverty levels are high and education penetration low. We are proud to say that over half the children that attend our schools are girls. Although students younger than grade 2 will not be directly using the laptops, they will benefit from all the services provided from them and get early exposure. The local teachers will also benefit from this project as they learn how to use and teach technology. This will also help slowly change our schools from the Nepali-medium to English.

After powering the school with solar energy, providing wifi, setting up the computer lab, and training the teachers, the students will have these laptops to use for all the years to come.

Teen Astronomy Cafe Uganda Uganda

With guidance from NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab), we plan to setup Teen Astronomy Cafe Uganda (TACU) that is an awareness and knowledge sharing program for high school students on how science, technology, and engineering are changing our world and enriching lives. This is aimed at fostering lifelong learning behaviors that will increase the teens’ appreciation and understanding of science and stimulate their interest in science and engineering careers.

During One Friday in a month and during the academic year, we shall visit high school students in their schools and introduce them to astronomy. Students will learn about killer asteroids, exo-planets, lives and deaths of stars, variable stars, black holes, the structure of the universe, gravitational lensing, dark matter, colliding galaxies, and more. The format for the cafes will be a short presentation by an astronomer, a computer-based lab activity and a discussion during lunch. Students will explore the astronomer’s research, using Python coding and will be exposed to programming for the first time.

FIVE HISTORIES, FOUR STARS Colombia, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Peru. A collaborative work will be done between observatories and planetariums of different countries of South America to identify, collect and present the cosmovision that the indigenous communities had around the Southern Cross constellation, (recognized by the IAU). This work will bring up as products a book and a short show in fulldome format which will introduce five ancestral stories of this sky area. The methodology starts when talking with subjects who represent to these pre-Columbian cultures, gather the vision of this constellation, and mainly highlighting the role that this asterism has played in the space orientation and the design of a calendar with different perspectives to the given by the western astronomy. In addition, the elaboration of a knowledge dialogue or a word-circle among stories will be sought. The material will give relevance to the Incas, Mapuches, Guaranies, Tikunas, and Kogi’s conceptions, and it will show the richness and deep of their narratives. In this way, the proposal requires to integrate those stories that were told generation by generation around a bonfire, stories that planetariums and observatories have systematized nowadays, and later within the proposal, express them in 10 MINUTES on fulldome and flat-based formats, and a workbook of 10 pages. Both, the text and the fulldome show will be presented in front of hundreds or thousands of people who attend to the planetariums in Latin America that request them, and they will be available to be translated to other languages for institutions that can afford them.
Haitian Constellations Haiti

Establish constellations of Haitian origin by retracing local mythological entities or cultural objects through a multidisciplinary research group. The bright stars of the 2 hemispheres (starting from the one in the north where Haiti is located) will be used for the constellation drawings. The main goal is above all-inclusive, showing through written and media documents that astronomy is for all nations, even if internationally we use the 88 constellations chosen by the IAU.

These Haitian constellations will not be areas but drawings only and will be like a Haitian surface layer to those established internationally. They will be useful in cultural and ethnological training in the country, and even in the history of the Voodoo religion in the country.

Astronomy for Differently Able Community Nepal

During this pandemic, we have been doing special classes aimed for the students and communities through the use of ICT. In our team we had included communities of differently able citizens too, yet we got no responses from them. Thus, we tried reaching them through personal contact and found out that they couldn’t get the information that was actually prepared aiming to reach everyone. Thus, we (I along with my team) are currently working on making these resources accessible to this community with special need.

As a core idea of this project we shall be creating audio visual contents that would be used to reach these special need community, particularly the Visually Impaired and the Deaf . We choose to reach the students and the professionals from this group in particular through our contents. Also, as a part of the project, special 2 day workshop will be conducted where even the people with no special need would be participating as the workshop is aimed to create a network between everyone living in a same society and everyone would be motivated to be inclusive in the communities in the both side. Another main motive of this project is to familiarize one another to create a society where everyone would feel comfortable in each other’s presence unlike now where a normal child feels awkward even greeting an individual from the community with special needs.

Working with the leading individuals from the differently abled community who are actually including us in their community shared us their view about using Astronomy in which an individual with eye sight can help them feel the world we are accessible too. For eg, in a team of two where one can see and another cannot, the one with eyesight can observe the Moon through a telescope which s/he would be explaining to the one who cannot see. Later to give the feel, they can be help with the kits for visually impaired.

Bringing Astronomy to the Manitoba Indigenous Youth Canada For more than 150 years now, the Indigenous peoples in Canada continue to endure hard conditions (higher rates of unemployment, poor education, bad housing, and poor job prospects) despite government efforts to improve this situation. Several government efforts have tried to solve this problem but the political approach does not seem to be sufficient and all suggested programs had limited success rates. One of these key issues is the lower levels of education and the higher level of dropout.
Based on the success of our Pilot Project in 2019 and our ongoing project in the province of Quebec, we propose to follow the same society-society approach to improve the situation of Indigenous people in Canada by using Astronomy as a tool for the development of Indigenous youth.
In this project, we will target up to 5 communities (Brokenhead, Dakota Tipi, Roseau River, Sagkeeng, Long Plain) near the city of Winnipeg in Manitoba (Canada) which has *the largest Indigenous population* of any major city in Canada. Our participants will be students from middle and high-schools and their teachers. Our project has four components: (i) visiting schools in the Indigenous communities to reach young Indigenous students. Presentations will be given by Indigenous and non-Indigenous professional astronomers; (ii) visiting the newly remodelled Lockhart Planetarium at the Univ. of Manitoba; and (iii) bringing a group of students to visit the Glenlea Astronomical Observatory as well as the Ewen Campus telescope; (iv) providing teachers free training on teaching astronomy.
Within this project, we aim to connect directly with, and engage Indigenous astronomers such as Laurie Rousseau-Nepton (the first indigenous woman in Québec to obtain a PhD in astrophysics), and scholars in Manitoba who can provide role models for the Indigenous youth. These include Wilfred Buck (from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation), a well known Manitoban who beautifully portrays astronomy and the sky from an Indigenous lens.
Astro Data Science Workshop: Using Techniques in Radio Astronomy and Data Science to Contribute to Socio-Economic Development in Ghana Ghana

Recent radio instruments such as MeerKAT, LOFAR, etc, generate big data from their observations. The size of the observed data will even become more massive when the SKA arrays are fully operational. It is indisputable that the competence of radio astronomers to tackle new computational and statistical methods to understand the current new size, complexity, and fast streaming data is helping scientists make new discoveries. Currently,  the algorithms used in data science have become increasingly popular among astronomers, and are now used for a wide variety of tasks. Meanwhile, this same technique is very useful in other fields such as agriculture, health, education, Geosciences, logistics and supply chain management, finance, etc.

It is therefore essential that we train (young) scientists with the skills to tackle the advanced challenges this new breed of radio telescope are presenting, starting at understanding the characteristics of radio data and handling large data volumes, up to the astrophysical analysis and interpretation of the resulting large data sets. However, there is currently no university in Ghana offering  Data Science program at both postgraduate and undergraduate levels. A workshop of this nature is therefore set to entice and encourage faculties in helping to see the need for Data Science being an integral part of the university degree programs. An engagement of heads of departments and stakeholders in this regard will, therefore, help in streamlining and adapting a good curriculum for teaching Data Science in Ghanaian Universities.

Taking astronomy to the remotest corner of Ghana using a mobile planetarium Ghana At the turn of last decade, astronomy has arrived on the shores of Ghana, with the SKA project, the 32-metre radio telescope and the DARA project. Regrettably, majority of the students and the general public are not aware of this astronomy project, nor of the huge potentials of astronomy to the country or the place of Ghana as being the second country to have a radio telescope and the opportunities therein in the second phase of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project. This project seeks to teach school kids, universities and the general populace about astronomy and the benefits therein to a community and country which are not cognizant of the science of astronomy. A mobile planetarium will be used to do a comprehensive education on astronomy to reach schools, universities and communities in the remotest corners of Ghana. Volunteer facilitators from pragsac would be deployed to the local districts to carry this out.
Astrotourism and Conservation Awareness in Ghana. Ghana

The tourism industry in Ghana is currently the fourth largest source of foreign exchange earnings, contributing at least an estimated 4.8% to the country’s GDP [https://www.ghana.travel/]. Tourism resources in Ghana are immense and diverse. The country has natural (over 20 National Parks and reserves, waterfalls, animal sanctuaries, etc.), historical (over 30 forts and castles and religious monuments), cultural (over 30 festivals), and other man-made attractions (paragliding, art galleries etc.) which makes it one of the preferred tourist destinations in Africa. Here we aim to introduce astrotourism to the tourism mix of the Ghanaian economy. Our goal is to train tour guides in basic astronomy, on how to operate optical telescopes, and in relevant astronomy software at three identified tourist hot-spots which we will promote to be designated as Dark Sky Astrotourism Locations – the Kakum national park in the central region, Peduase Lodge in the eastern region, and the Mole national park in northern Ghana. We will set up an optical telescope at each site with which the trained guides will conduct star-gazing events for tourists, at a fee. Revenue generated from the project will be reinvested, and the project expanded across the country. A key aspect of the project will be education and outreach activities to raise conservation awareness among local communities and to develop interests in astronomy and (science in general) among young people local to the remote astrotourism sites.


Phase 1: Acquire optical telescopes; prepare training material (lectures, manuals, videos, etc.); liaise with management of selected tourist sites and finalise MoU to host telescopes.

Phase 2: Train tour guides on how to operate and run telescopes; organise promotional materials (posters, flyers, social media content, etc.) for outreach and marketing.

Phase 3: Conduct periodic reviews (bi-monthly) to assess progress and implementation strategy.

Astro-Villages India, Ethiopia, Congo, and Kenya

Developing the socio-economic situation of a remote and underdeveloped village by introducing Astro-villages in the least light-polluted regions of the globe.

The plan is to open Astronomy and Space Experience centers in locations that host dark skies, due to the underdeveloped communities, which cannot be available for people living in the light-polluted cities. Different job opportunities will arise by opening these Astro-villages. Several village homes will be selected to host the facility which will require many individuals to maintain it and ensure the locals to self-sustain their livelihoods.

Youth will be given skills training on scientific equipment and astronomical instrumentation to empower them as Astro-guides for the facility. They will be executing observations, events, and outreach programs. Being the unique hotspots for Astro-Tourism, these Astro-Villages will be equipped with the latest telescopes, astronomical instruments, educational aids, and camera equipment.

The target audience will include travelers, astronomy enthusiasts, university and school students, the general public, and corporates. Offering a wide range of activities and programs, the facility will ensure footfall and will host stargazing opportunities, space exploration, education camps, astrophotography, astronomy and research, nature walks, bird watching, and many more.

It is already well established that tourism always brings with itself other opportunities for development. Astro-villages will encourage the growth and connectivity of the region.

We are optimistic that this project will bring prosperity to the lives of villagers and will inspire a lot of people.

CODIY-20 Mailbox Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia

CODIY-20 aims to empower the children in experiential learning of Astronomy and bring some excitement into their dull quarantine life. After the design thinking process guided 2 HKUST professors (Erwin Huang and Carrie Ling) and a series of interviews with the students and parents, we discovered that there are two common problems for the children: 1. Feeling bored without school 2. Missing their hands-on experience while feeling sick for too many virtual classes. When people are stepping into the virtual world to escape from COVID-19, we have the vision to bring back the touchable and feelable hands-on experience in real life for this year of locking down. Therefore, we propose the idea of the CODIY-20 mailbox. We will deliver a mailbox containing DIY materials of an Astronomy theme (e.g monocular with a video tutorial) and other astronomical gadgets from different fields to them every 3 months. Our targeted users are the Chinese community including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, and Singapore to ensure the ease of delivery. Moreover, we will provide an APP to encourage the exchange of ideas in this Astronomy community.

Lowell Observatory’s Native American Astronomy Outreach Program: Online curriculum units Any

NAAOP pairs astronomers/educators with 4th-8th grade teachers to work together with the goal of getting Native students interested in STEM and STEM careers. We are currently engaged in a 3-year collaboration with the Navajo Kayenta Unified School District (KUSD) which was designed to create and test astronomy curriculum units. The curriculum uses Project Based Learning to help students see themselves as scientists and cultural and local connections to help students see STEM as relevant to them.

The week-long curriculum units are designed to meet state, Next Generation Science, and Common Core science standards. They include reading, writing, math, and a robotics/programming component. The 4th grade unit is on erosion and compares sand dunes on the Navajo Nation to those on Mars. The 5th grade unit is on the characteristics of the planets compared to Earth. The 6th grade unit is on how the Sun powers the energy cycle on Earth and how an energy cycle might look under the ice in the oceans of Titan or Europa. The 7th grade unit is on implementing an artificial energy cycle in a spacecraft. And, the 8th grade unit is on the chemistry of Mars and Venus and figuring out what causes “frost” on the highlands of Venus and the red color of Mars.

We would like to make these curriculum units available to teachers anywhere since the fundamental characteristics that make the units a useful educational tool apply everywhere. In addition local connections and culture can be replaced in the particular setting. We are asking for funding from the IAU-OAD to help finance this effort. We have the lesson plans for each unit, but we need to supplement these with materials that will substitute for the training workshop that we do with our partnering teachers. This includes additional written material and videos. We have recently purchased the equipment and software for making and editing videos.  We also need to support teachers who download the materials by answering their questions.

Peace through Astronomy for Northern Communities in Kenya KENYA

To use astronomy to promote peace and unity in  Kenya’s Northern communities through organizing peace-keeping activities in the region. The Project shall use the aspiring potential of astronomy based on Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot ideology to stimulate sense of belonging and togetherness as we celebrate our common descent here on Earth ( https://www.planetary.org/explore/space-topics/earth/pale-blue-dot.html). Selected Primary and Secondary school students, teachers, clan elders and local administration from the four neighbouring communities in Northern Kenya i.e., Isiolo, Samburu, Meru and Laikipia Counties. The proposed project shall seek partnership of implementation with the ministry of education and the Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT).

Implementation plan: Astronomy talks shall be organized in one Primary and one Secondary School in each County with membership of students and teachers drawn from all the four Counties. The selected schools shall be near the border of the four selected Counties where conflicts often arise due to issues of grazing and watering points for the animals. A training shall be organized for selected teachers and students from all the four Counties with theme: ‘astronomy and humanity: one planet’. The team shall also organize an excursion to a conservancy that shall involve all the four community elders’ representatives with a view to strengthen the relationship between them as they share their view on culture and astronomy.  The team shall enhance community-level peace-making groups that may grow out of the traditional structures through organized training on peacebuilding skills and conflict management delivered by experts in this field besides rallying community and religious leaders in preaching peace and co-existence among all mankind. The project shall run for one year but continued future support from local NGO’s such as NRT shall be highly encouraged for its complete success. The team comprises  some members from the region.

Understanding the sky from home Chile (it could be expanded to other countries in the Southern hemisphere)

This is a pilot project with 3 factors in mind: a) a general lack of educational activities in Chile (as well as other Andean countries) focused on understanding astronomical phenomena, from an observational perspective (i.e. naked eye observations of ephemeris); b) the current situation of students learning from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic; c) take advantage of this crisis as an opportunity to present interesting, manageable and accessible activities to learn astronomy from home, using methodic observations and records of astronomical phenomena that occur every day (such as sunrise, sunset, Moon phases, etc.), which we usually don’t pay attention to, due to our daily (pre-pandemic) routines. Thus, the core idea is to use the “idle time” of students at home to contemplate and appreciate its surroundings, by making its bedroom, backyard or any place with a clear outside view his/her “workstation”, to understand the daily (or monthly) changes in the sky and recording them, as a team.

The target audience of this project, initially, will be 5 courses from local schools willing to do continuous observations of the sky from home, supervised by a teacher. Each group will receive a kit of learning materials (guides with experiments involving naked eye observations and usage of free astronomy software), and each will receive a digital camera with a compatible AC adapter, for specific experiments (to be performed by the teacher, but helped by the students).

The implementation plan involves the acquisition of the physical materials (5 digital cameras and its AC adapters), as well as preparation of the educational guides; delivery of the educational kits and online coordination to begin the measurements; after a fixed time, the results will be published in a public website, as a reference for other schools, to eventually replicate the experiments with the same kit and enlarge a collaborative database of experiments at home.