AAVSO: American Association of Variable Star Observers

A Community-Centered Astronomy Research Program (Abstract)

Volume 45 number 2 (2017)

Pat Boyce
Boyce Research Initiatives and Education Foundation, 3540 Carleton Street, San Diego, CA, 92016; pat@boyce-astro.org
Grady Boyce
Boyce Research Initiatives and Education Foundation, 1433 Burroughs Street, Oceanside, CA, 92015; grady@boyce-astro.org

Abstract

(Abstract only) The Boyce Research Initiatives and Education Foundation (BRIEF) is providing semester-long, hands-on, astronomy research experiences for students of all ages that results in their publishing peer-reviewed papers. The course in astronomy and double star research has evolved from a face-to-face learning experience with two instructors to an online hybrid course that simultaneously supports classroom instruction at a variety of schools in the San Diego area. Currently, there are over 65 students enrolled in three community colleges, seven high schools, and one university as well as individual adult learners. Instructional experience, courseware, and supporting systems were developed and refined through experience gained in classroom settings from 2014 through 2016. Topics of instruction include Kepler’s Laws, basic astrometry, properties of light, CCD imaging, use of filters for varying stellar spectral types, and how to perform research, scientific writing, and proposal preparation. Volunteer instructors were trained by taking the course and producing their own research papers. An expanded program was launched in the fall semester of 2016. Twelve papers from seven schools were produced; eight have been accepted for publication by the Journal of Double Star Observations (JDSO) and the remainder are in peer review. Three additional papers have been accepted by the JDSO and two more are in process papers. Three college professors and five advanced amateur astronomers are now qualified volunteer instructors. Supporting tools are provided by a BRIEF server and other online services. The server-based tools range from Microsoft Office and planetarium software to top-notch imaging programs and computational software for data reduction for each student team. Observations are performed by robotic telescopes worldwide supported by BRIEF. With this success, student demand has increased significantly. Many of the graduates of the first semester course wanted to expand their astronomy knowledge and experience. To answer this demand, BRIEF is developing additional astronomy research courses with partners in advanced astrometry, photometry, and exoplanets. The program provides a significant opportunity for schools, teachers, and advanced amateur astronomers to introduce high school and college