Student Astronomers Earn Top Honors in State Science Fair
NAI’s University of Hawai’i Team has conducted the Hawai’i Student-Teacher Astronomy Research (HI STAR) program for the past four years and counting, supporting middle and high school students to carry-out astronomy research projects under the mentorship of NAI scientists and other astronomers. Teams of 3-4 students and their science teacher come to UH for a week in the summer for background training, project selection, and mentor-matching. Through lectures, demos, and hands-on activities, the students learn astronomical concepts such as spectroscopy, image processing, and remote observation. Projects are selected, and students make plans with their mentors to conduct their research throughout the school year.
This year, three students who participated in HI STAR 2008 entered their projects into the 2009 Hawai’i State Science and Engineering Fair, and took home top honors. Ninth grader Travis Le garnered third place in the Senior Research category for his extra-solar planet project, “WASP 2-b Or Not Just 2-b.” And eighth graders Kira Fox and Gina Hyun took home second place in the Junior Research category for their asteroid project “1270 Datura.” Both projects earned other local awards as well, including The American Association of Physics Teacher’s Paul Hewitt Award, and awards from the NASA Pacific Regional Planetary Data Center, the American Public Works Association, and Sigma Xi. Travis will go on to enter his project in the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair. He has earned a special invitation from the University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy to tour the Mauna Kea Observatory, but must wait until he is 16 years old to make the trip, and will tour the Haleakala Observatory in the meantime.