Carmel Catholic Science Instructor And Students Participate In
Fascinating NASA Inspired Project
Mundelein, IL— 1/18/2012—Carmel Catholic High School Science Department faculty member, Marcella Linahan and a group of students recently participated in the NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program (NITARP). Students involved in this project included: Nick Ezyk, James Fagan, Amanda Pullinger, Holly Sprow, and Abhisek Rameswaram.
As a result of the team’s research, they discovered about twenty new stars previously unidentified by anyone else. In scientific terms, the team used archival Spitzer InfraRed Array Camera and Multiband Imaging Photometer for Spitzer data combined with 2-Micron All-Sky Survey data to investigate the infrared properties of previously known young stellar objects. They also used infrared colors to identify twenty new young stellar objects in two bright-rimmed clouds.
“My student research team of five spent every Saturday morning this past fall working with astronomical data to find young stellar objects (YSOs) in two bright-rimmed clouds: BRC 27 and BRC 34. The Spitzer telescope uses infrared light instead of visible light to capture images. Infrared light is able to penetrate through the clouds of gas and dust and find the young stars. After analyzing images, calculating and recalculating the data, students plotted the data in spectral energy distributions and were able to detect any YSOs giving off excess infrared light. Additionally, we were able to obtain original data for BRC 34 from the 2-meter Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) on Haleakala, HI. Students collaborated with three other teams of students on this project from Florida, Oregon, and Minnesota,” Linahan explains.
The NITARP research initiative gets teachers involved in authentic astronomical research. They partner small groups of educators with a mentor professional astronomer for an original research project. The educators incorporate the experience into their classrooms and share their experience with other teachers.
This program is completely unique as each team does original research using real astronomical data, not canned labs or reproductions of previously done research, and each team writes up the results of their research and presents it at an American Astronomical Society meeting—the professional organization for astronomers in the U.S. Additionally, each team presents the educational results of their program experience at the annual convention.
According to Linahan, “The typical high school science laboratory experience is comprised of activities where students verify known concepts. One of the best things about the experience provided by NITARP is that teachers and students are given the opportunity to do authentic research that does not have a previously known result. Students learn that the data that we are working with is not ‘clean’ or perfect and that it requires much re-evaluation and many techniques to extract what the data is telling us.”
“This project allowed our students to assume an active role in the entire scientific process: project development, teamwork, data collection and analysis, interpretation of results, and formal scientific presentations,” she adds.
In mid-January, Carmel Catholic students, Holly Sprow, Abhisek Rameswaram, along with Linahan will travel to the American Astronomical Society Convention in Austin, TX to present their research findings.
The primary goals of the NITARP program are closely aligned with the fundamental NASA goals of inspiring and motivating students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as well as to engage the public in shaping and sharing the experience of exploration and discovery. NITARP aims to improve student proficiency in science and improve science instruction by providing a unique opportunity for groups of teachers and students (with the help of a mentor astronomer) to work with professional astronomical archival data and tools. The research team completes the data analysis, and presents their findings to others throughout the scientific community. The teachers are also expected to give presentations at relevant teachers’ conferences and/or professional development presentations for their local educator community.
Student Researchers Inspired By Science Program
“I love real science. I think it’s better when you don’t know the answer; thus, you double check for human error constantly…However, in a high school science classroom everyone will reach the same conclusion because there is only one answer.”
“Learning the material in California helped us lead the team because we knew what we were doing. We learned everything first-hand, so we were able to try to resolve any problems and we knew how to work the programs better. It helped make us experts so that we could assist the team in understanding the software and we were able to answer any questions that arose.”
“The best part about this project was definitely expanding my scientific knowledge as well as my improved ability to use computer programs like Excel. Getting to analyze data with other students as interested in science as I am was an experience that had me looking forward to doing something I loved to do every Saturday.”
“This project inspired my career ambitions because I wish to go into astronomy myself, and doing this project helped to affirm this desire. I found that I enjoyed doing the work, which was very important tin helping to discern that I wanted this career path.”
“Compiling data was my favorite part, especially when you’d get incongruent data and have to figure out how to rectify it.”
—Nicolas EzykCarmel Catholic, American Astronomical Society Convention, Nick Ezyk, american astronomical society, Amanda Pullinger <BR/>