Tuesday, January 6, 2009

IYA Student Ambassadorship

I have been selected as the IYA Student Ambassador for Hawai'i. I am also currently the Coordinator for the Graduate Student Educational & Public Outreach Committee (GEPOC), a volunteer body at the UH Manoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA), founded by Joe Masiero. I have been participating in public events in Hawai'i for over three years, since my first week as a grad student at the IfA.

We currently provide several programs to help spread knowledge and interest in astronomy to the public completely through volunteer efforts. These include Starlab planetarium shows, public talks, interactive activities for students from elementary to college level, stargazing sessions, yearly open houses and more. A list of public outreach events that graduate students have coordinated and participated in is available at the GEPOC webpage, http://ifa.hawaii.edu/gepoc/ These public outreach events are a great way to let people know about IYA and NASA's work, and they are entirely student coordinated and run.

We are hoping to take our outreach activities to the neighboring islands in the year to come and I plan to use the funds from the IYA Student Ambassador grant to facilitate that. There has already been discussion about providing activities and talks for students on Kaua'i, something that has never been done in the past. It is especially important in the state of Hawai`i to spread excitement for Astronomy, as it is an integral part of the state's economy.

Currently, much of what we do is provided at the request of the local community, such as schools, community groups, museums, etc. I would like to take a more active role in informing the public about IYA by coming up with new events in addition to our usual outreach. We have had passers-by take great interest at planned stargazing events for local groups, so I would like to provide impromptu public stargazing sessions as a way to let people know about IYA and what we do locally at the IfA.

We already have the framework for informing community members and students from elementary to graduate school about IYA. I will continue to work to provide outreach opportunities with other graduate students over the course of my career in Hawai'i and beyond, and I look forward to IYA as an opportunity to increase public awareness of the world of Astronomy and NASA.

I also plan to stress the importance of public outreach to faculty, students and other members of the Astronomical community, especially in the upcoming year. I personally feel that it is important to make sure the public (our employer!) stays informed about what we do as Astronomers, why Astronomy is cool and exciting, how to pursue a career in sciences and technology and what the future will bring.