The Design, Construction and Use of an Internet Accessible, Robotic Optical Telescope Initiative for Student Research Projects.
The aim of this project is to design, deploy and determine the potential effectiveness of a moderate cost robotic observatory for education and research projects. The use of robotic telescopes in education has been demonstrated in a number of recent high profile initiatives, such as the Bradford Telescope, and Faulkes Telescope projects. While there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that these initiatives increase student enthusiasm for science, the effectiveness of these comparatively large and expensive instruments in enabling students to easily participate in authentic research remains the subject of conjecture. At the same time, there has been a marked increase over the past few years, in the number of successful, comparatively low cost amateur observatories making valid contributions to science. Amateur astronomers have a long history of contribution to astronomical research, and recent innovations in off-‐the-‐shelf, robotic telescope hardware and software have increased this contribution even more so. Compared with the larger initiatives, the robotic telescope solutions implemented by advanced amateurs are easily replicated, and offer an interesting alternative for educational implementations. This research project will draw heavily on the recent advanced amateur experience as a model for the design and construction of a robotic observatory for outreach, engagement and valid research. The provision of a full life-‐cycle of support components
is considered important in the successful delivery of any educational outreach initiative including one that involves access to arobotic telescope. The development, deployment and evaluation of teacher training as well as the development and provision of student activities form a significant component of this project. The age of the Internet is upon us. That the next generation of school students will continue to be impressed by taking pretty pictures of celestial objects with on-‐line telescopes is dubious; that those same students will be engaged by participating in research and discovery is likely. The key aim of this project is to demonstrate the 4 potential to achieve this outcome using an effectively implemented, comparatively low cost Internet telescope solution and supporting initiatives.