Wilmington Middle School and Wilmington High School Students Travel to West Virginia University to Share Data With Other Students and Radio Astronomers
Stars at Yerkes teacher Sherry Shelley led a team of eighth graders and a team of high school students to West Virginia University to participate at Capstone. Capstone is a three day event that is hosted by the Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) Project and funded by National Science Foundation and West Virginia University.
Students have to qualify to attend Capstone by analyzing data from the Green Bank Radio Telescope searching for pulsars. The students analyze a series of graphs, called plots to determine if radio signals from our galaxy are coming from pulsars, radio interference from wireless devices, or noise from other objects in space. Thirty plots are arrange in a set referred to as a “pointing.”
The students have to analyze 50 pointings to qualify to attend Capstone. They arrange their data in a scientific poster to take to Capstone. At Capstone, the students discuss their findings with student teams from other states and radio astronomers. Afterwards, the students take a tour of the university and attend social activities.
This was Wilmington's second year of student attendance at Capstone. "It was so awesome to see my students soak up the experience of participating in real science research," said teacher mentor Sherry Shelley. She explained further, "They meet other students from other states such as West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, and Delaware. They discuss astrophysics with leading radio astronomers, Dr. Duncan Lorimer and Dr. Maura McLaughlin. But, the best part for me as a teacher, is to see my students discover how much fun learning can be. Even though the my two teams were tired at the end of the trip, they made arrangements to share their experience with the Wilmington School Board. How utterly awesome is that!".