Collaborative Research: Full Scale Development: Skynet Junior Scholars – Engaging Youth in Authentic Science Using Research Grade Robotic Telescopes

October 1st, 2012 - September 30th, 2015 | PROJECT

The University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the University of North Carolina, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and 4-H are collaborating to provide professional development to 180 4-H leaders and other informal science educators, and engage 1,400 middle school youth in using research-grade robotic telescopes and data analysis tools to explore the Universe. Youth participating in 4H-based out-of-school programs in Wisconsin, West Virginia and North Carolina are learning about the universe and preparing for STEM careers by conducting authentic astronomy research, completing astronomy-related hands-on modeling activities, interacting with astronomers and other professionals who are part of the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network, and interacting with other youth who part of the Skynet Junior Scholars virtual community. The project is innovative because it is providing a diverse community of 4-H youth (including sight- and hearing-challenged youth and those from underrepresented groups) with opportunities to use high-quality, remotely located, Internet-controlled telescopes to explore the heavens by surveying galaxies, tracking asteroids, monitoring variable stars, and learn about the nature and methods of science. Deliverables include (1) online access to optical and radio telescopes, data analysis tools, and professional astronomers, (2) an age-appropriate web-based interface for controlling remote telescopes, (3) inquiry-based standards-aligned instructional modules, (4) face-to-face and online professional development for 4-H leaders and informal science educators, (5) programming for youth in out-of-school clubs and clubs, (6) evaluation findings on the impacts of program activities on participants, and (7) research findings on how web-based interactions between youth and scientists can promote student interest in and preparedness for STEM careers. The evaluation plan is measuring the effectiveness of program activities in (1) increasing youths' knowledge, skills, interest, self-efficacy, and identity in science, including youth who are sight- and hearing-impaired, (2) increasing educators' competency in implementing inquiry-based instruction and their ability to interact with scientists, and (3) increasing the number of Skynet scientists who are involved in education and public outreach.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products
Poster - Skynet Junior Scholars: Sharing the Universe with Youth
Skynet Junior Scholars: Professional Development to Support STEM Exploration in a Variety of Settings
Skynet Junior Scholars Annual Evaluation Report: October 1, 2015-September 30, 2016

Team Members

Richard Kron, Principal Investigator, University of Chicago
Suzanne Gurton, Co-Principal Investigator, Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Daniel Reichart, Principal Investigator, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Sue Ann Heatherly, Principal Investigator, National Radio Astronomy Observatory


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1223687
Funding Amount: $932,131

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1223235
Funding Amount: $341,673

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1223345
Funding Amount: $325,808


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Evaluators | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Nature of science | Space science | Technology
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Community Outreach Programs | Laboratory Programs | Media and Technology | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Professional Development and Workshops | Public Programs | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media