Results of Extraordinary call for COVID-19 related proposals

In May 2020, the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development issued an Extraordinary Call for Proposals that could use astronomy in any form to help mitigate some of the impacts caused by COVID-19. Together with the African Astronomical Society and African Planetarium Association, more than 800,000 ZAR (about 40,000 Euros) in grants have been awarded to 43 projects around the world that use various aspects of astronomy and the astro community to help communities suffering the negative impacts of COVID-19.

Summaries of projects are listed below (in alphabetical order). For more information on any of the projects, write to info (at)


Project Title Target countries Project Summary
AIM – All dIgital reMote Brazil The AIM project will promote online learning for students in the City of God favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In addition, it will assist teachers in the online delivery of science and math curriculum, create teaching videos, and generate a mentor-mentee relationship with the most promising students.
Amateur astronomers’ network as outreach fosters (AANOF) Russia and Germany The core project idea is to direct the passion of amateur astronomers and their organizations towards astronomy activities, online and offline. Through online educational platforms, this project raises interest in astronomy classes, e.g. live observations and streaming from different telescopes around the globe, as well as inspire interest in the target audience.
COVID-19 in Amazonas: Astronomy strikes back! Brazil, all Portuguese-speaking countries, and Japan. The central idea is to bring relevant discussions in astronomy to teachers and students in the public education system. The implementation plan consists of videos, “live streams” on social networks and development of manuals for teachers and students. The project is supported by the following Brazilian entities: ABP, FAPEAM, MCTIC, CNPq, UEA, Planetarium Digital of Manaus and Parintins.
Ask An Astronomer (Pregúntale A Un Astrónomo) Perú “Ask an Astronomer” is a science education and outreach project carried out weekly on social media where two Peruvian young astronomers discuss open questions and important topics in astronomy and space sciences. The program will not be a lesson or a lecture, but rather an open conversation in an easy-to-understand language, that aims to attract the attention of children and young people at a time when it is a challenge to bring formal qualified education in middle and lower income countries.
Astro-Art Contest for Schools Kids Nigeria This project aims to engage elementary and high school children through an Astro-Art competition. The competition will encourage school children to paint their space imaginations and get a chance to win prizes.
Astro-Logos: stories of the history of the Universe (astrATTO) Italy The project will record five short stories by world-renowned writer Italo Calvino, taken from the book ‘Cosmicomics’, inspired by astronomical facts, and commented on by several astronomers. The poetic and imaginative description of complex astrophysical concepts in the book provides a powerful cue to introduce various fascinating aspects of astronomy through literature, making the content suitable for a wide audience including children and young adults. The recordings, accompanied by original soundtracks and drawings, will be made publicly available online. The combination of Calvino’s wisdom and sobering irony, the sublime relativity of the various astronomical subjects, the professional voice acting by Claudio Casadio, and the creative interpretation of the artists, will help lift the spirit of the target audience, especially in these dire times. Ultimately, the project hopes to remind the listener of the importance of maintaining perspective and faith in human collaboration, both through scientific inquiry, as well as the arts.
Astronomy for All Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka The project will continue our outreach efforts and keep it more engaging through different online webinars, training/workshop, interaction, classes, etc. The target audience is high school as well as university level students and teachers/faculties from SAARC countries. Contacts with teachers/students/schools/clubs/Societies will be established and programs related to astronomy will be held.
Astronomy from Archival Data India and all over the world The project will train students to use the high-quality astronomy data from various facilities. Participants will be shown step-by-step techniques of accessing and analysing astronomy data from the internet, introduced to virtual observatory tools and programmimg techniques, and supported to formulate and develop projects. The training will include special sessions on report writing, publishing and presenting in scientific journals. More info at:
Astronomy in a Shoebox Canada The core purpose of this project is to provide low income families who lack internet access with educational and fun activities. A ‘shoebox’ or small, compact box will be provided with several activity sheets, instruction sheets (for adults), and a few basic art and craft supplies related to multiple activities. These boxes will be distributed at local food banks in the Greater Toronto area in Canada. It will provide families a chance to discover the wonders of space exploration and astronomy, work together as a team, and complete these activities.
ASTWONOMI LAKAY VODCASTING… Haiti The project aims to release weekly astronomy presentations (audio, video) aimed at families and enthusiasts while they are confined at home. It’s an ongoing project with some episodes already released and the plan is to release an episode each week.
CO-DIY 20 Mailbox Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia Since the outbreak of COVID-19, children have been spending a lot of time online – virtual classes, online homework or even online birthday parties. The project aims to help them reconnect with the physical world by mailing a package containing DIY materials and other astronomical gadgets. A shared platform will be created for all the participants of the project. 
Collecting and visualising healthcare facility data for South Africa (SA) in response to COVID-19 The project will collate data and create visualisation resources related to healthcare facilities in SA but re-use of the tools and data will be encouraged by publishing it under open licenses. The project aims to collect and effectively communicate data related to the South African healthcare system and its response to COVID-19. Most of the publicly available information around the pandemic pertains to the number of positive cases recorded, number of tests conducted, recoveries and number of COVID-19-related deaths. Less data is available describing healthcare systems capacities, locations and readiness to cater for the infected people. Having easy access to healthcare facility data is hugely important to identify gaps, risks, and excess resources that can be deployed elsewhere. It also helps the general public to understand the status of the healthcare system. The visualisation dashboard will be freely accessible and source code for the data visualisation platform will also be released under an open source license. 
Contest: Painting the Universe from home México and Latinomerica The project aims to use art and astronomy as a way to remove and reduce stress caused by the pandemic as well as motivate children.
COVID Citizen Science Nigeria The project will train students to conduct citizen science as part of a SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) program.
COVID-19 Support for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) Nigeria The project plan is to provide hygiene support at a camp for Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria. The camp has over 2500 inhabitants mostly living in overcrowded rooms and shared facilities, including 500 children. The project team, which previously visited the camp for an OAD project in 2019, will provide hand washing stations as well as create posters in Hausa and English Language about the dangers of COVID-19, precautionary measures and lifestyles changes. Also, they plan to provide hand sanitizers, disinfectants, face masks, other general cleaning supplies and food supplies.
Development of online astronomy lessons for students in Ghana Ghana The project will develop online lessons in astronomy and share with students through social media. The lessons would be deployed weekly and questions and feedbacks from users addressed. Lessons will include, a virtual tour of the 32-metre radio telescope at Kutunse, in Accra, hands- on- activities, introductory and intermediate topics in astronomy and techniques like teaching students python programming and applicable software.
Development on an online platform for Assessment of COVID-19 spread for planning and implementation of timely intervention Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania The project aims to develop an online platform for mapping COVID-19 hots spots in order to provide a near real-time information that will help plan interventions such as location of quarantine facilities, humanitarian assistance, distribution of resources such as health workers, ambulances, ventilators, personal protection equipment (PPEs). The information so obtained may be used to decide which localities to put under partial or total lock down; put under curfew etc so as to contain the spread of the disease. An algorithm will be developed using similar techniques as in astronomy to image the spread of the disease and eventually provide an easy to use online platform for informed decision making. The online interface will be shared with government agencies before being made public.
Distance Learning for Home-Bound Students Amid COVID-19 Tanzania The Distance Learning for Home-Bound Students project directly addresses the education barriers in developing countries such as Tanzania where on-line access and computers are very limited. The project enables teachers to continue engaging their students using simple, online facilities appropriate for the bandwidth limited internet and families with no computer. For students without any internet access, printed packages will be prepared for pickup, following safe COVID practices.
DISTRIBUTION OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPES) TO HOUSEHOLDS AROUND THE GHANA RADIO ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORY Ghana The project intends to reach the community living around the Ghana Radio Astronomy Observatory and distribute face masks, hand sanitizers and other PPEs as well as discuss astronomy as appropriate.
DIY Universe: A Virtual Science Program for Summer Engagement United States but students in any other country can have access to the resources The Christa McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning will support the implementation of a virtual summer program (using a web-based program- DIY Universe) with youth from partner Out-of-School Time (OST) organizations serving economically-disadvantaged youth and youth under-represented in STEM. OST organizations play a vital role by providing youth with ways of discovering and exploring the world of STEM that complement the learning they experience during the school day. They often provide youth with access to enriching summer programming that can enhance their educational experience, address achievement gaps, and prevent learning loss.
The program would be offered for free to students and the grant would be used to offset staff costs for the program.
e-Amanar: Under the same sky connection Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria. e-Amanar will provide follow-up capacity building for teachers involved in the 2019 Amanar project at the Sahrawi Refugee camps by 1) organizing a pilot online training program and 2) providing science educational materials. As a response to challenges imposed by COVID, the project will strengthen support to teachers by remote skill development and self-empowerment activities. Scarcity of computers and lack of reliable internet connectivity is a reality at the camps, so the program will be carried out via Whatsapp, which is efficient to low internet connection and teachers can use it easier through their mobile phones. The program content will be co-created with the teachers to ensure that the content is relevant.
Hacking vulnerable people as massive particles any, US The project aims to organize an epidemiologists-astronomers hackathon to directly help the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically to include appropriate population characteristics in epidemiological models, so that the model does not only take into account the disease characteristics, but also the local and specific medical and behavioral characteristic of the population.  
Inspiring STEM learning through astronomy in rural Ñuble, Chile Chile The project seeks to use astronomy to inspire, encourage and educate students whose studies have been interrupted during the pandemic due to their complex geographic location and limited economic resources.
 Material will be developed and delivered to students focused on developing scientific skills where they will learn, explore and experiment, in a guided way, with elements of the environment, using observation, measurement with non-standard units and simple materials. It will lead the students towards autonomous learning focused on astronomical content, using STEM methodology. 
Lowell Observatory’s Native American Astronomy Outreach Program: Book Club at home Navajo Nation/USA 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. 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 program has implemented Book Club in many partnering classrooms in order to get students excited about reading, the key to successful careers and life-long learning. The project grant will be used to continue Book Club, providing each student with the book at home while schools are shut down due to COVID.
Making scientific box for school kids and teachers in remote rural areas Mongolia In rural and remote areas of Mongolia without internet connectivity, school kids and their teachers can not participate/use online educational materials and experience. The goal of this project is to support them during this time by providing a scientific box of educational sources and instructions on how to became amateur astronomer. School teachers will first receive this box after which they can teach small classses in rural remote areas. Hand sanitizer materials and face masks will be included in the box.
New Planetarium shows in the era of Coronavirus Arabic speaking countries The project will produce a series of new original planetarium shows in Arabic, English (and possibly French). These five shows will be in the various fields of science, physics, biology, chemistry, earth sciences and computer science, but connected by astronomy. In addition, educational brochures on astronomy and sciences will be developed and distributed to the public attending the planetarium shows. The content will be gender neutral and in fact motivate girls to pursue science careers by introducing fitting role models whenever possible.
OAD Injection Moulding Machine – Recycling waste plastic South Africa Waste plastic is a golden opportunity. The project plans to up-cycle plastic to reduce the impact on the enviroment as well as add to livelihood opportunities. The injection molding machine is suitable for a small scale production facility for manufacturing, for example, breathing masks.
Online collaboration and studentship Assistance Amidst Covid-19 Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Rwanda, USA, Canada, Mexico, Uganda, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Gabon. Online Collaboration and Studentship Assistance Amidst Covid-19 is a focused project to assist Southern African and West African Regional Offices access online resources and learning opportunities that have already been developed by the North American Regional Office. Students will participate in observing and research using a remotely operated telescope, led by educators, professional astronomers. They will learn about the night sky, how to plan a remote observing session, how to operate the telescope via Slack, as well as image calibration and reduction. Internet access will be purchased for students. 
Online Learning Web Application for University and High School Students Nigeria and West African Countries. The project will build a user friendly and responsive website for university students to learn physics and astronomy. Both video lectures and text (where necessary) will be published on the online learning platform. The platform would also support learning for high schools on topics of maths, physics, chemistry, and biology.
Protect Our Stars (POS) Burkina Faso The project will support the students and supervisors at the Joseph Ki-Zerbo University to resume their work at the university safely, especially when remote activities are impossible. This will involve making reusable local masks, acquisition of recyclable personal protection equipment and handwash for laboratory activities. Awareness sessions on safety measures will also be conducted.
Providing astronomy inspiration & Hygienic Supplies to underserved families at high risk of infection from Covid-19 South Africa Informal and partially informal settlements in South Africa are incredibly vulnerable to the spread of the Covid-19 virus. One of the communities in Cape Town is Khayelitsha where children are also facing a complete stall in their education due to school closures, as they are unable to access online educational resources from home. This project will provide the families of 110 students with hygienic supplies, while also including educational, astronomy-based material for the children and their families to enjoy while at home in order to keep the students inspired and engaged in learning during the lockdown.
Reach for the Stars South Africa The town of Sutherland in South Africa, which hosts the South African Astronomical Observatory, has been severaly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The core of the proposal would be to provide 200 families in the community with food parcels. The Observatory has been very active in these communities with schools, therefor for implementation we would partner with the schools and the saps to ensure the food reach the most vulnerable households in the communities, especially where learners are present as well. 
Role of astronomy and space science in fighting COVID-19 and other viruses. Ethiopia directly, and the rest of Africa and world indirectly This project aims to develop educational material and give more information and visibility about COVID-19 and other viruses and on the important role of science in general, and astronomy and space science (A&SS) in fighting them. It will include development of a manual, reflecting brief questions and clear answers on what we learned about COVID-19 and other viruses, what we still have to learn, and how important was and will be the role of A&SS in knowledge creation and prevention and protection of society from disasters. The information will be adapted to Ethiopian conditions and/or societies living in challenging conditions. The manual will be developed in English and translated to Ethiopian official languages.
Rooftop diaries As the project will be digital, it targets all countries.       

The main implementation phase, however, will be carried out in Athens, Greece.

This project seeks to produce an artwork inspired by the problems faced in lockdown and the escape route that astronomy can offer. It will be implemented by a video artist with an interest in astronomy, in cooperation with an amateur astronomer who has a keen interest in art. Rooftops offer an alternative to outside mobility and also a means of escaping from lock down by looking upwards, towards the open sky. A digital rooftop diary composed of video images of the sky and skylines of the city will be created to produce 30 small videoessays. The video essays will be synthesized to produce a complete artwork which will be uploaded digitally for all to access and shared on social media. The aim of the project is to inspire others facing lockdown difficulties by using rooftops as observatories, as a means of escaping from the negative effects of the confinement as well as creating a record, in the form of a digital diary, of an experience that for most of us is unique.
SAAO Aquaponics Farm Southern Africa Staff members at the South African Astronomical Observatory SAAO will be setting up an aquaponics farm for the benefit of SAAO personnel and staff. The aquaponics facility will also be used to showcase aquaponics to visiting schools.
Slooh Online Astronomy Education Worldwide Slooh has enabled people to explore the universe together through its global network of telescopes. Slooh’s automated observatories develop celestial images in real-time for broadcast to the Internet. The grant will be used to support Slooh’s “Home based Astronomy online classes” for students who want to explore space & astronomy during lockdown.
Solar Powered Foot-activated Hand Washing Water Dispensers KENYA Two astronomy students from Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST) have developed a foot-activated hand washing dispenser with a motorized valve that is solar-powered. The device will improve safety during the COVID-19 crisis and is likely to prompt pupils to wash their hands more often as they marvel at the operation of the device. In addition, this will provoke their curiosity regarding the sun as the source of energy and the working principle of the device. The project team plans to fabricate and distribute the handwashing kits to 4 public schools around Meru University of Science and Technology with the average capacity of 500 pupils each. 
Teacher Training on Teaching Science (Physics) and Mathematics using Astronomy and Astrophysics Uganda The project will continue the training of teachers initiated by the Network for Astronomy School Education (NASE) training in 2019. The training be conducted online and the teachers will be supported with materials and mobile data
Time and Data for Tutors South Africa Universities across the world, including in South Africa, are moving to online means for teaching and learning. While the University of the Western Cape has launched a vast campaign to raise funds for laptops and data packages for students, teaching assistants, or tutors, are not priority recipients of the fund raising efforts, nor can they purchase data for teaching. Moreover, they are often working much more than the 5 or 10 hours per week that they are currently paid for, helping the undergraduates understand the material. In these difficult conditions, the staff of the Department of Physics and Astronomy have come together to volunteer their own research or publication funding to be able to support the tutors, but this falls short of what is needed. The project grant will be used to purchase data packages and fund extra time for teaching assistants in the Physics and Astronomy Department. 
Translating and Distributing ‘Space Scoop’ to Students in Underprivileged Areas of Pakistan Pakistan The aim of the project is to translate an astronomy book and adapt it for an audience that reads and comprehends Urdu but has difficulty understanding English. The particular group of people being targeted are 6 -15 year old kids and their teachers in the areas of Pakistan where internet availability is not present and education is at a total halt due to Covid-19 restrictions. Around 1000 copies of Space Scoop translated into Urdu will be delivered to these areas. Posters regarding Covid-19 awareness could be included with the astronomy books. 
Under the Same Stars Communications Campaign Global The project aims to help those who are fighting with mental distress to look up at the sky and feel connected to others around the world. Pausing to appreciate the heavens above can not only be the perfect way to calm the mind and relieve stress, but also can bring people together through our shared heritage of the night sky. A two month long program will provide inspiration and a sense of belonging (community) through an education/information campaign
Under the Sky of Iran Campaign Iran and Afghanistan The “Under the Sky of Iran” campaign will be launched to promote virtual learning and develop free practical training. The project will be implemented by creating an “Iranian Astronomy Network” to organize online webinars and educational presentations for children, adolescents and young adults. These classes on various topics will be recorded and available online and sent as DVDs for those students who do not have access to internet. We will also hold a series of free tutorials for teachers on how to teach in an online environment.
Virtual Classroom Under the sky – PBL with Astronomy South America This meeting of Virtual classroom under the stars is aimed at preschool, primary and secondary teachers, astronomy fans from South America. The meeting aims to share pedagogical and methodological tools for teaching astronomy, through projects to explore and study the astronomical world and prepare the participants to solve real situations.