The International Olympiad in Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA) is an annual competition for high school students from around the world who are passionate about planetary astronomy and astrophysics. Forty countries compete for the title, and the US has only fielded a self-organized team since 2013. While the volunteer-led USA Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad (USAAAO) group selects the students to represent the US in the Olympiad, and provides a curriculum, it lacks hands-on access to telescopes for training purposes. MIT wants to step in to help the US national team by providing access to its telescopes, astronomers, and students at a brand new one-week summer camp!
Five high school students will be traveling to India in December 2016 to represent the US in this year’s International Olympiad. MIT wants to help them be the best that they can be! The Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) has the telescope resources and a team of eager students and faculty volunteers ready to offer a one-week summer program on MIT’s campus in August to help the US Olympiad competitors prepare for this prestigious international test of knowledge and ability. With small telescopes on campus for practice in setting up, polar aligning, and acquiring celestial targets, and larger telescopes at the Wallace Astrophysical Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts, the participants will get the hands-on experience and instruction from EAPS faculty and students to collect the kind of data that will be required during the competition.
How You Can Help
The 2016 IOAA Summer Training Camp will have one week in residency at MIT. During this week, the team members will study astronomical principles and practice using telescopes and collecting data, the core knowledge base of the Olympiad. We need to raise $10,000 by the end of June to support the 2016 IOAA Summer Training Camp - and we are delighted that MIT alum Bob Gurnitz has offered to match all donations (up to a maximum of $5,000) so we are already half way to our goal! Your donation will be doubled!
Can you help us meet Bob and Ellen's generous $5K challenge gift and bring this team to MIT to train?
Bob Gurnitz holds three degrees from MIT in Chemical Engineering. In recent years, Bob and his grandson (soon to be a freshman at MIT) have done some interesting work together in astronomy and astrophysics. Bob and his wife Ellen are delighted to be able to help support the Olympiad team.
The faculty supervisor will be Dr. Amanda Bosh, senior lecturer in EAPS, the instructor for 12.409 Hands-on Astronomy and a co-instructor for 12.410/8.287 Observational Techniques in Optical Astronomy. Undergraduate student leader Ishara Nisley (XII ’17) will coordinate student activities at Wallace Observatory, aided by six MIT undergraduates who are undertaking various research and engineering projects at the Wallace Observatory this summer. Graduate students are also standing by to help.
Will one of these students go on to be the first explorer on Mars? Discover signs of life on a planet around another star? A summer week at MIT could provide just the right inspiration!
Please join MIT's efforts to prepare this talented group of High School astronomers to represent the US in the International Olympiad in Astronomy and Astrophysics in India in 2016, and also give MIT Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences students the opportunity to gain valuable teaching and outreach experience. If the pilot program is successful, MIT (EAPS) is thinking of offering this STEM program to even more high school students next summer!
Images: [TOP] IOAA 2014 Team (Claire Burch, David Wang, Evan Tey, and Luke Finnerty) | [MIDDLE] Robert N. Gurnitz '60, SM '61, PhD ‘66 | [BOTTOM] Image courtesy of Amanda Bosh: the International Space Station crosses the dark skies above the Wallace Astrophysical Observatory