ASTROLAB: a first year laboratory in astronomy and astrophysics
ASTROLAB is a laboratory course for first year students on a physics and astrophysics degree programme at the University of Birmingham, UK. The laboratory runs for nine weeks with 5 h sessions. For the first seven weeks the students, working in pairs, perform experiments taken from a list of 20 experiments, with data obtained from observatories around the world. The data take the form of images, spectra and astronomical catalogues. In the final two weeks the students undertake a problem-based learning activity, a simple project in astronomy or astrophysics. The laboratory has been running for more than 20 years, and is judged as being very enjoyable and successful by students and staff.