SkyWatch: Introducing European Youth in the World of Scientific Research through Interactive Utilization of a Global Network of Robotic Telescopes
The SkyWatch Project is realized in the framework of European Science Week having as scope to inform the public and especially young people about the latest advances in astronomy as well as to prompt them to conduct observations of astronomical phenomena.
The SkyWatch project intends to introduce European young people to the truly wondrous world of science and technology by engaging school and university students and young science amateurs in escalating, challenging and innovative multidisciplinary ‘Science Games’ combining creativity, intelligence and scientific inquiry.
SkyWatch introduces a pan-European Science Communication and Celebration Initiative, which will reach its peak during the European Science Week 2005, comprising of two main interrelated events:
1) a two-phase European Science Contest (concluding with a central European Exhibition and a Best Projects Award Ceremony);
2) a series of popular science distance learning courses.
The SkyWatch project’s objectives are focused on raising public awareness of scientific and technological developments by motivating the wider public to actively participate in the process of realizing the beneficial impact of science and technology on our day-to-day lives. One way to successfully raise awareness and interest in science, especially among young people, is to present science and scientific research through challenging activities combining intelligence, existing knowledge and innovation.
The SkyWatch contest is aimed at three age groups:
Age group 1: Students less than 15 years old;
Age group 2: Students between 15 and 18 years old;
Age group 3: Adults.
To perform project activities, young people will be given access to an existing global network of remote controlled robotic telescopes though an innovative web-based platform. The young participants will organize teams (school classes, groups of students, etc.) and design, develop and implement their science projects, comprising astronomical observations with the use of the telescopes and under the guidance and the continuous support of experts. The SkyWatch web portal has been launched to this end featuring advanced collaboration and communication tools and educational material of high added value and acting as an on-line campus for scientific projects. The establishment of a virtual community of young people, wider public and the scientific community is the ultimate project objective.
All participants are allowed to enter the contest either individually or in pairs –but projects developed by groups of more that two people will not be accepted.
The project is organized in different phases:
Phase 1. The young participants will use a data base of astronomical observations made by the telescopes of the SkyWatch network of observatories. According to their selection from the pool of the five suggested contest topics – the sun, planets and moons, asteroids, birth and death of stars, galaxies, the participants are expected to design, develop and implement projects and activities under the guidance and the continuous support of a team of experts in the field. All projects will be presented and assessed following specific criteria that will be applied by the project’s scientific committee.
Phase 2. The participants with the 30 best projects will be granted access to the network of robotic telescopes to be provided with new research material comprising observations on demand.
Based on these “ordered” observations, the participants will further develop their submitted projects or even create a new project on the same topic. These 30 integrated projects will be evaluated by the project’s scientific committee who will finally come up with the three best projects from each age defined category.
Other SkyWatch initiatives are linked to the European Science Week 2005 such as interactive sessions on popular science, in the form of lessons in a virtual popular science school. The programme will include ten Contest Science Days during which participants will have the chance to discuss and interact with experts on their projects and six Public Science Days (e.g. Astronomy Days, Physics Days, Mathematics Day) during which youngsters and the general public get additional information about the latest achievements in a relevant field and the results of selected contest’s projects, plus a chance to ask questions.
Young people will have the opportunity to learn and to get familiarized with the process of scientific research and at the same time to find out more about the work of scientists and technologists. To ensure success of this initiative, teachers of the participating schools and science center educators will attend an online seminar course in order to receive the appropriate information for the realization of the proposed activities.
SkyWatch is realized by a consortium of eight European partners: Q-PLAN S.A., Greece, as Project Coordinator, the European Distance and E-Learning Network (EDEN), UK, Astrophysics Research Institute - Liverpool John Moores University, UK, the European Physical Society (EPS), France, the Ellinogermaniki Agogi – R&D Department, Greek, Institute of International Education - Stockholm University, Sweden, - The Observatory Science Centre, UK, the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.
SkyWatch is a twelve month project and it started in June 2005.
For more information visit the project’s web portal: www.sky-watch.org