In 2022, the OAD funded 17 projects run by multidisciplinary teams that addressed local and global challenges through astronomy-related innovations. On February 24, 2023, these projects presented the results of their activities during the past year, also sharing their achievements and challenges.
AstroEdu3D – Archeoastronomy Teaching Kit in Bolivia
The project developed kits for teaching Cultural Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the context of the Tiwanakota culture of Bolivia. The aim is to support educators and students interested in astronomy and pre-Inca cultures of Bolivia to develop a class on Tiwanacota Archeoastronomy. The kits were developed with the participation of students and professionals. And virtual workshops were organized to introduce the kits to teachers.
Guide training workshop for tribal students, India
The project aims to develop an ‘earn & learn’ opportunity for tribal students by training them as astronomy guides and enabling them to earn income. This was achieved by training students in a manner so as to not interfere with their academic schedule. Simultaneously, an online networking platform is being developed to onboard the trained guides, their mentors & astrotourism event organisers.
Education for All: promoting education in internally displaced communities in Burkina Faso
The project organised astronomy-themed workshops in selected camps set up by the government to accommodate internally displaced persons. The workshops were aimed at children who should be attending primary school and featured various interactive and fun STEM activities and also recreational activities featuring cultural astronomy content. The materials were designed to alleviate the trauma endured by the camps’ young children (and also families) and stimulate in these children the interest to learn and attend school.
Astronomy training outreach for preschool teachers, Malaysia
Astronomy in early childhood curriculum is meant to increase involvement and interest in learning without causing children anxiety. Through this project, we provided exposure and awareness to the target groups about the relevance of astronomy in everyday life. The activities targeted preschool teachers, preschool students, and participants from the local community.
Bringing Radio Astronomy To Classrooms with Affordable Radio Telescopes, Nigeria
Radio astronomy is a highly inter-disciplinary field involving the subjects mathematics, computer science, engineering, chemistry, biology and physics. This project focused on an educational Do-IT-Yourself (DIY) low cost and portable hydrogen line radio telescope system that will be primarily used by lecturers in 10 Nigerian universities with an astronomy programme. A 3-day workshop was conducted for lecturers on hands-on training on the telescope’s assembly line and other activities.
Beyond the Beach: Foundations for Caribbean Astrotourism, US Virgin islands
The project is a unique opportunity to expand tourism in the US Virgin islands beyond beaches and bars. The project built an astrotourism training program to develop local skills in presenting astronomy to the public, and a supporting network for locals establishing tourism businesses that incorporate astronomy. The program funded 1) the development of public outreach materials and travel kits and 2) a professional development program for aspiring astrotourism business ventures.
SciGirls – Empowering girls in science through astronomy, Ethiopia
The world faces a massive gender gap in science that is well documented (UNESCO UIS 2019). In Ethiopia, only ~ 13% of scientists are women, plus, girls avoid choosing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields mainly due to the lack of information and support. SciGirls project aims to reduce, in the long term, the gender gap in science and the current lack of girls in STEM through astronomy and its multidisciplinarity. The project organised capacity-building workshops to bring astronomy and STEM closer to the girls and to make them future advocates in their schools and areas.
Cenca Bridge, Central American & Caribbean countries
The mission is to provide opportunities to marginalized students from Central America and the Caribbean. The challenge revolves around scientific research being inaccessible or completely absent. Astronomy research can help students obtain versatile tools and transferable skills to increase employment options and create leaders. The project is building a network to train students as STEM leaders and support them throughout their career. And serve as a hub for international institutions to aid the development of students in the region. Cenca is being funded for 3 years from 2022-24.
Acornhoek Physics Summer School, South Africa
The main goal of the project was to develop a sustainable model that addresses the challenges faced by many students in mathematics and science, mostly in rural areas, and create interest for science in young people through astronomy. The project ran a summer school, an annual 3-week program aimed at grade 11 learners, when they are introduced to grade 12 maths and science. It is run by students who attended the program in previous year. In addition, a mentorship program was launched, and a science club created, centred around astronomy.
Astro Tourism Development in Tanzania
Tourism is a leading source of revenue for the Tanzanian Government (17% GDP, 25% foreign exchange). One-third of the country hosts dark skies in game parks and nature reserves and its geographic location near equator allows 90% of the night sky to be seen between dusk and dawn. It can provide employment for local tour guides, showcase oneness of night sky, and protect it from light pollution. The project is developing an academic curriculum and short course training for astro-tourism and building capacity among existing tour guides.
CosmoAmautas: Virtual teacher training in vulnerable regions in Peru
The pandemic has severely intensified inequalities in education in Peru, especially for vulnerable populations. The second edition of the CosmoAmautas program (amauta=teacher in the Quechua language) involved teacher training workshops in astronomy and STEM education for 100 high school teachers in rural areas of Peru. The model focuses on inquiry-based learning, and includes lectures, hands-on activities, and motivates the creation of self-sustaining high school Astronomy Clubs led by the teachers and hosting motivated students.
Astronomy in Ghana
The project visited various schools within three southern regions of Ghana (Greater Accra, Volta and Central Region) in order to set up school astronomy clubs. The clubs organize talks, discussion and hands-on activities to foster practical problem-solving skills and introduce students to the diversity of possible STEM qualifications and careers. Teachers were trained to act as club patrons, improving their knowledge of astronomy and practical teaching methods and activities.
Astronomy for Community Empowerment, Nepal
This project is creating astronomy clubs at selected schools, training students to help them better communicate and engage with their communities. The clubs are being developed as resource centers for communication and collaboration among students at community schools (that have fewer resources), institutional schools, and their community. It is being implemented in three provinces, Bagmati Province, Province-2 and Gandaki Province.
Astrolab 2022, southern, eastern, and western Africa
The Astrolab project inspires students by providing an opportunity for them to do research on remotely accessed telescopes which they would otherwise not do because of lack of astronomy infrastructure at their universities. Astrolab is developed to leverage existing infrastructure to provide remote access so that students work on real astronomy data. A collaboration with the Las Cumbres Observatory provides adequate telescope time. The 2022 session of AstroLab used a hybrid approach where there was online training for students and online refresher courses for tutors as well as some in person training.
A virtual community mentorship program for development in Colombia
The number of astronomers in Colombia has increased in the last decade however, the job opportunities that these astronomers have in the country are not numerous and many highly educated professionals end up working in jobs where their skills are not applied. This program aims to tackle the problem using mentoring. It focused on providing support to students that are currently enrolled in astronomy or similar programs who are planning their careers. It focused on the possible areas that astronomy can contribute to the region: 1) research; 2) education, 3) industry; and 4) equity. The program connected students with professionals working in academia and industry to maximize their employability.
Mobile Astronomy Village, Benin
The project acquired a mobile planetarium since astronomy is an entry point to science and the scientific method in general for the youth of Benin. The mobile planetarium and telescope was a unique opportunity to reach young people in Benin, with the aim of attracting more science students (especially women) and, in the long term, educating Beninese about astronomy.