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Star light, star bright! BSU prepares dozens of telescopes for use in Boise classrooms

Posted at 10:38 AM, May 23, 2024

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho students are looking toward the stars thanks to a generous donation to Boise State University from NASA.

Sophia Cruz spoke to BSU about the Telescopes for Teachers program and what the donation will mean to students interested in Astronomy.

  • NASA donation of $125,000 to the Telescopes for Teachers program
  • 50 telescopes will be put in classrooms across Boise
  • Each telescope is named for a woman who was influential in Astronomy or Physics

(Verbatim of story that aired is below)

Taking students to the world above. This summer 50 telescopes will be introduced to classrooms around Boise funded by NASA. The goal is to take students to the stars.

I spoke with Doctor Rachel Huchmala a postdoctoral fellow for the central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve stem network at Boise State, who is building the bridge between local classrooms and astronomy. In 2023 Boise State's stem program received a grant from NASA's science activation program. The program titled Teachers for Telescopes will install 50 telescopes in classrooms surrounding Boise.

These are unistellar equinox2 robotic telescopes.

“Our telescope has one mirror on the bottom and so we collect light at that mirror and then at the top we have a small camera so the light bounces to the camera where it’s collected. It’s just collecting those images and then stacks them on top of each other to get better clarity,” said Rachel Huchmala.

Each telescope will be named after an influential woman in astronomy or physics. This one is named after Ada Lovelace.

“Who is considered to be one of the first computer programmers. There’s not a lot of women in STEM that we talk about and that’s kind of the point so if we look way back in antiquity and the first woman that started getting involved in science and maybe not particularly liked for being interested in astronomy and those types of things,” said Huchmala.

She also wants to emphasize that science does not fit in a single box and that the impacts are...

“Inspiring to students, said Huchmala. “When I first got involved in science I thought if I wanted to study chemistry then I had to be a pharmacist, but I quickly learned that with astronomy, looking out at space we need all types of scientists so I hope that it inspires kids to know that there’s stuff out there that we really don’t understand and we could use any type of person to help us.”

Teachers will attend training this summer on how to use the telescopes and how to incorporate them into their lessons. Once installed, students will have star watching parties, and be able to participate in an exoplanet research project.

“We’re looking for exoplanets that are falling into their stars,” said Huchmala. “So we’re not really looking at things that are potentially habitable, we’re looking at some of the weird cases out there and we’re also looking at if we can use these telescopes to confirm exoplanets.”

The telescopes will be ready for use in the fall.