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August 2001 TOPS Newsletter

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TOPS 2001 students taking TOPS for Astronomy 399 credits need to be reminded that they have to turn in their write ups on how they intend to share their TOPS experiences in the fall by AUGUST 10, 2001. The pdf file of the Course requirements is available here. It would greatly help if you could send these before August 3. Please send your reports to Beverly.

TOPS 2001

Discussion of the highlights of TOPS 2001 - with pictures. The TOPS 2001 program was a huge success, probably the best TOPS to date! Below are some excerpts from the project evaluation being compiled by Chija Skala:

Teacher comment -- This experience of TOPS has done many things for me. #1 Reminded me of my choice of careers. The learning process is so well modeled. #2 Renewed my passion for professional growth. Before this workshop, politics, no administration support, broke my sprit for teaching and having expectations. This time at TOPS has re-established and renewed my passion to continue my professional growth. I am very excited about the opportunity to participate in TOPS. I am ready to attack the school year with vigor. Again, before TOPS, I was ready to be the easy teacher, (8-3 nothing else). We all know that real teachers dont feel this way.

Volcano hike -- The volcano hike was fun, exciting, and enjoyable. The sites were so amazing and incredible. And the lava tube tour was an experience that I will always treasure. Excellent tour! The participants really enjoyed the volcanos hike. Many participants, new and returning, said that the format of a lot of short hikes was perfect! They were appreciative of the chance to see many different geological phenomenon.

Polynesian Voyaging -- The participants agreed unanimously that this was an excellent session. Some said that this was the highlight of the workshop, others said that Nainoas talk was inspiring, mind/ sprit enhancing, and inspirational.

Comet Lecture -- The following four quotes provide an excellent summary of how the participants felt about this session. The presentation was perfectly delivered. And the lecture gave us an idea of what a comet is made of prior to the hands-on activity. I learned so much about the composition of a comet. Very impressive! Karen has a wonderful way of presenting complicated ideas in a concrete simple fashion Karen made you want to be a comet specialist. This time you [the teachers] made connections to different subject matters so we can enrich our curriculum with comet flavor.

Odd historical note: After we left Cape Kumukahi, Dave Wilson discovered that he had lost his black cell phone somewhere on the lava during the GPS surveys. The next day he called his cell phone number and a woman answered and asked, "Is this your phone?" The woman was on business in the Kona area. She gave the phone to an Aloha Airlines agent in Kona, who sent the phone back to Honolulu with one of Dave's fellow flight crew members. Dave picked up the phone at the Honolulu airport within hours after making his call.

PEC 2001 Meeting

Karen Meech and Tim Slater attended the Pacific Education Conference in Guam to give a presentation about TOPS. In the 2.5 hour session Tim and Karen gave an overview of the TOPS program to 35 teachers (elementary, middle and high school) and counselors from Guam and Saipan, and got a strong response in interest in the program. In addition, we showed them the Mars Water hands-on activity developed for the "X-Treme Science" exhibit at Bishop Museum. TOPS alumane Rick Seidel (Guam, 2000) and Kurt Woolslayer (Rota, 1999, 2000, 2001) helped with the workshop. Below are some images from the workshop.

Research Experiences for Teachers Program

Tom Chun and Mary Kadooka are part of the new IfA Research Experiences for Teachers program (as a supplement to our NSF-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates program). Mary and Tom have been working on a research project to recover Kuiper Belt Objects with poor orbits. They have just returned from a 3 night observing run on Mauna Kea with IfA postdoc Yan Fernandez where they obtained positional data for about 11 Kuiper Belt objects, and observed half a dozen comets, and obtained data on one Kuiper Belt object to determine its rotation period. They will reduce their data, and then prepare a scientific paper for possible presentation at the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in New Orleans this December. If you are interested in becoming a RET teacher, contact Karen Meech.

Two images of Comet LINEAR C/2001 A2 taken at the UH 2.2-m telescope on July 24, 2001, when the comet was only 0.43 AU from Earth and 1.36 AU from the Sun. The width of each image at the distance of the comet is 27,500 km. The left image was taken in the light of fluorescing cyanogen (CN) molecules, while the right was taken with sunlight reflected off of dust grains. Ice on the surface of the comet's nucleus (which is buried within the photocenter of each image) is sublimating into space to form the coma, carrying grains of dust with it. One of these ices, hydrogen cyanide (HCN), dissociates in the coma to form cyanogen, which fluoresces when exposed to sunlight.

TOPS Alumni Happenings

  • TOPS Reunion Luncheon -- Tiffany Llenos (Oahu, TOPS '00) hosted a TOPS reunion luncheon cookout at her house on July 20. About 10 TOPS members were present, including Tim Slater, Tom Chun, Elaine Mahoney, Gary Hirata, Doris Dean, and Mike Jaros among others.
  • Astronomy 699 Credits - new teacher activities -- TOPS teacher Michael Polashenski, (New Jersey, 2000), is in Hawaii for 3 weeks to participate in an AP Physics workshop, and in addition to pursue an Astronomy 699 directed reading course with Karen Meech. Mike has been developing a document entitled "A Brief History of the Telescope and Ideas for Use in the High School Physics Classroom". This work is available below for TOPS teachers. Feedback is welcome, and should be sent to both Mike and Karen.

    History of the Telescope for High School Physics

  • Wedding -- Hao Zheng (TOPS 1995) married Bruce Andrew Thalheimer on July 28, 2001 at Kualoa Ranch on Oahu. Hao started as an architecture major, but as a result of TOPS became very interested in astronomy and the natural sciences. She got her undergraduate degree in civil engineering at Washington University in St. Louis (where she met Andrew), and then a masters in environmental engineering from the University of Hawaii. Hao and Andrew will be moving to St. Louis in mid August.

  • Science Fair Winners -- Glenn Gonzalez (Marshall Islands, TOPS '99, '01) reports that two of his algebra students, Van Herman and Calvin Johannes, won prizes in January 2000 at the Palau Science Fair. The students used concepts that Glenn learned at TOPS 1999 for their projects. Van's project, titled "Inverse Square Law," won first prize in the Space and Technology category, and Calvin's project, "Aerogel," won second prize in Space and Technology.

  • Astrobiology Students -- Ute Kaden (Texas, TOPS '00) sent email from the microbiology lab at Johnston Space Center in Houston. She writes that four of her students competed and won the opportunity to participate in the FlyHigh Program. They did research with scientists from NASA and Baylor Medical College Houston on T-cells. They spent the majority of their time in a highly equipped biomedical laboratory under the supervision of Baylor College of Medicine immunologists Dr. John E. McClure and Dr. Brian B. Hashemi. From previous long-term space flights, information has been collected that shows that the human immune system does not react as efficiently in microgravity. This lapse in the workings of the immune system causes astronauts to become more susceptible to disease, infection, and injury, both common and rare. For example, a paper cut in space does not heal as quickly as on Earth. Therefore, they performed experiments involving the T-cells of the human immune system and their reactions to differing levels of gravity in hopes of finding out exactly where the system breaks down. After performing the experiments on the ground, a team of students will actually conduct these tests in a microgravity environment aboard the KC-135 aircraft in which weightlessness will be simulated. One of NASA's biggest goals for the future is to send humans to Mars, a round-trip that would take at least 18 months. The research Ute and her students participated in will help to achieve this goal.

  • Heaton twins -- Mary Heaton (Hawaii, TOPS '00) reports that twins Ryan and Sam are doing well. Ryan quickly overcame his respiratory distress syndrome problems and was released from the hospital after two weeks. Sam was discharged after 11 days and then slept in a hotel drawer in Honolulu while he waited with Phil and Mary for Ryan to be released. The family then flew back to Hilo and this summer moved to Chile. Mary says she and Phil are doing as well as can be expected. They have adjusted to getting sleep in one-hour chunks at various points during the day and night. Mary writes, "Thanks for all the good wishes we have received and we apologise for not getting back to you all individually. If you check the following website you can see some photos of Sam and Ryan which we will update when we get a chance. http://communities.msn.com/MaryHeatonsPhotoAlbum (click on "more photos" and then "ryan and sam" album)."

Teacher Opportunities

Fellowships of up to $5000 are available through the American Association of University Women's Eleanor Roosevelt Teacher Fellowship program. The application POSTMARK deadline is Jan. 10, 2002. "Eleanor Roosevelt Teacher Fellowships are designed to provide professional development opportunities for women public school teachers; improve girls' learning opportunities, especially in math, science, and technology; and promote equity and long-term change in classrooms, schools, and school systems." Details at Roosevelt Fellowships.

Teacher Resources

  • Astronomy Education Newsletter -- Tim Slater is the acting president of the NSTA-affiliated organization, Association for Astronomy Educators (AAE). The AAE has a free electronic newsletter that comes out about twice each month with announcements of workshop opportunities for astronomy teachers. To subscribe, send a blank email to astroed_news-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. You will receive a confirmation of your subscription and then automatically receive the newsletter via email. Please note that Tim is now at the University of Arizona. You can reach him at tslater@as.arizona.edu.

  • Online Astronomy Newsletter for Teachers -- The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) has formed a partnership with Astronomy.com to produce an online version of "Universe in the Classroom," the ASP's teachers' newsletter. To access the online newsletter, go to www.astronomy.com and click on Parents & Teachers in the blue box on the left side of the screen. Archives of the original newsletter and simplified versions of the new one will be maintained on the ASP Web site: http://www.aspsky.org/education/tnl.html. The newsletter not only provides background information about astronomical topics, but it also includes activities and demonstrations that can be easily implemented in the classroom and a listing of complementary readings, resources, and links. On the same page that provides access to the current newsletter, you can also find links to other educational resources. Also, on other pages of Astronomy.com you can find information that links to a newsletter story, such as photos, sky charts, and a glossary.

  • A New Solution to the Three Body Problem -- Math teachers can get information about the "Three Body Problem" of Newtonian mechanics at http://www.ams.org/new-in-math/cover/orbits1.html. This column from the American Mathematical Society Online provides the solution to the problem that deals with three orbiting bodies of equal mass and the paths that they will take relative to one another. The well-written explanatory text discusses the figure-eight orbit, the triangle construction, other choreographies with more than three bodies, and the search for exotic orbits. It includes user-driven Java applets as demonstrations.

Contact Information

Last Updated on September 1, 2001

This page has been visited times since July 2001.

Karen Meech, Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii