Intergalactic career exploration

Lincoln Middle School students explore the space abyss

Houston Oakland had a problem, and solved it. From their classroom in Lincoln Middle School, science students explored and studied one of the biggest mysteries in the galaxy: black holes. 

Nicholas Krissie’s eighth-grade science class worked with Goldstone-Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT), a project that’s a partnership with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Lewis Center for educational research that helps educate students through their contribution to science.

With the assistance of a GAVRT telescope operator based out of California, the students remotely operated a 34-meter telescope to study and gather scientific data of black hole radio waves from their classroom. They were able to see a live feed of what was being shown on the telescope through the classroom computer. The data the students gathered is also used by scientists in a long-term study to see how black holes change over time.

Krissie says he hopes the study helps students realize they are capable of doing real science.

“I’m hoping to capture their imagination and curiosity,” Krissie said. “I want them to go into high school thinking of themselves as scientists who can collect real data about the universe around them.”

For students who aspire of one day becoming a scientist to study space, this project puts them lightyears ahead.

“It absolutely is on-the-job training for radio astronomy,” Krissie said. “This is what scientists do in the field. If they want to work with jet propulsion labs, this is a real on-the-job opportunity.”

Along with radio astronomy, the students learned about the electromagnetic spectrum, the range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation and their respective wavelengths and photon energies. Other occupations such as radio tower and radio/tv broadcast station technicians use this knowledge in their field.

Science, technology, engineering and math are four crucial 21-st century disciplines to study with a high demand in the workforce, which is why Douglas County Partners for Student Success and the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub strive to draw attention to the work being done around Douglas County.

Lincoln Middle School eighth-grade student Lynzi Mariemott says this project is right up her alley, as she dreams of one day becoming an astronomer.

“Doing this (project), it really helps me learn about what I want to do,” Mariemott says. “It’s cool that I get to see it head-on right now because I know what I need to do in the future.”

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