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Journey Through the Universe expanding young minds

March 3, 2014 - 7:33am

Hilo high graduate Devin Chu said thanks to Gemini Observatory’s Journey Through the Universe program, he’s reaching for the stars.

“Journey Through the Universe furthered my interest in astronomy, and I was motivated to conduct my own science projects with the help of a Mauna Kea astronomer,” said the 22-year-old physics and astronomy major at Dartmouth College.

Chu is one of the program’s success stories. What started as a small presentation with several astronomers has grown to host 80 industry experts all looking to share their love and knowledge of the universe with students at Hilo-area schools.

Michael Hoenig, data analysis specialist at Gemini North, has participated in multiple Journey programs. In the past he’s used interactive techniques to show middle school students how infrared light makes seemingly hidden objects become visible.

Hoenig said he’s looking forward to educating local keiki on the impacts and aspects of astronomy and science.

“It’s a chance to connect with the community and give back to the community,” he said.

Kathy Roth, associate scientist at Gemini North, said Journey helps to raise awareness about science and jobs.

“It drums up interest in science, as well as exposes what career options are out there,” she said.

According to Gemini’s web site, Hilo is one of 10 communities around the nation that are designated Journey sites. The speakers will visit 15 schools and teach in an average of 400 classrooms.

This year marks Journey’s 10th year in existence. Janice Harvey, community outreach and education programs leader at the observatory, said the program started when the observatory and the Hilo-Waiakea Complex of the Hawaii State Department of Education decided to expand the studies of astronomy on Mauna Kea and around the world into local classrooms.

Journey advocates are calling the decade-long program a success.

“We measure our success by our impact on our students,” said Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area Superintendent Valerie Takata in a press release. “But we are also proud of the partnerships this program has fostered with our local community and when community partners come to us to participate we know we are having an impact.”

The program starts March 7 with an Astronomy Educators Workshop at the Imiloa Astronomy Center. There will be a Family Science Day at the Imiloa Astronomy Education Center on March 9. The event is free to the public and will consist of garden tours, numerous talks and presentations including a discussion on space suits and one titled, “Why did bees, moths, pigs, fish, frogs, butterflies and monkeys fly in space?” by Rob Kelso, Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) director and former space shuttle flight director. The program will conclude on Wednesday, March 12 with a presentation at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Kevin Grazier, science advisor for the film “Gravity,” will be talking about his scientific studies and his work in Hollywood.

The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawaii Gemini North and the other telescope of Cerro Pachon on central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky.

For more information visit www.gemini.edu.

Stephens Media Hawaii is a 2014 Journey Through the Universe Program sponsor.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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