Using Robotic Telescopes to Teach STEM Skills: Undergraduate and High School Students
Since 2004 the NASA Education and Public Outreach Group at Sonoma State University has run a small robotic telescope to be used for teaching at the undergraduate and high school levels. The telescope is part of the E/PO efforts of NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The telescope is generally run via a queue observing system as part of the PROMPT/Skynet system run by the University of North Carolina. SSU E/PO Group members train high school teachers and their students how to use the queue to request observations, how to retrieve their data and how to work with the images. Fundamentals of CCD imaging and data processing are taught, as are concepts basic to making scientific measurements, such as statistical and systematic errors, signal to noise and confidence in results. The telescope has been used in classrooms in high schools and small colleges and universities across the United States. We will describe some of the ways students have been able to access the telescope for their observing projects as well as innovative use of observations in general introductory astronomy classes. We will also describe some of the hurdles that must be overcome if the use of remote observatories is to become more widespread, especially at the high school level.
McLin, K. M. 2011, in Telescopes from Afar Conference, An international conference on remotely operated, automated, or robotic ground based telescopes