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Teen Astronomy Cafés: Bringing Big Data to High School Students

With initial funding from LSSTC, NOAO EPO developed the Big Data Academy program, designed to excite the interest of talented youth in big data science by providing the opportunity for interaction with astronomers who work with large astronomical data sets. What is now called the Teen Astronomy Café Program (teenastronomycafe.org) has recently completed its 5th semester.

At our LSST PCW session, we will describe the key elements in making a successful Teen Astronomy Café. The key elements have been detailed in a how-to-guide that is downloadable below. The highlight of the session will be the opportunity to explore the Jupyter notebooks designed to provide hands-on research experiences for the high school students. You are invited (before the session) to create an account with the NOAO Data Lab to access the server on which the notebooks reside. During the last 20 minutes to a half hour of the session, the discussion will focus on any questions and ideas related to expanding the program to partner with the 40+ institutions involved with LSST. We welcome educators, scientists, EPO staff, and any other interested parties to our session. The aim is to learn how we can best support potential partners in expanding the program to their institutions and to provide you with access to the resources like the notebooks. Come join the fun.

Further information: One Saturday a month during the academic year, high school students interact with astronomers who work on killer asteroids, exo-planets, lives and deaths of stars, variable stars, black holes, the structure of the universe, gravitational lensing, dark matter, colliding galaxies, and more. Each Tucson café team includes 7 local high school youth leaders, an undergraduate coordinator, 2 grad students, the astronomer and program director. The format for the cafés is a short presentation by an astronomer, a computer-based lab activity and a discussion during lunch. In a room with 15 iMacs, students explore the astronomer’s research, usually using Python coding. Many students are exposed to programming for the first time. Evaluations show positive feedback on their experiences and impressions of STEM. Our science cafés demonstrate that scientists play a key role in increasing student interest and curiosity about science research and in helping students get a sense of scientists as people. The cafés also demonstrate that scientists can help students see how research connects with issues important to society and with students’ daily lives.


In advance of the workshop, please do steps #1 and #2. Steps #3 and #4 are optional.
1. Bring computers to the Teen Astronomy Café workshop.
2. Create an account before coming to the workshop by following the instructions below. 
3. You can then check out the awesome Jupyter notebooks in advance or during the workshop.
4. If you choose, download and peruse the guide to gather questions to ask at the workshop.
Here are the instructions for creating an account on the NOAO DataLab to access the Teen Astronomy Café Jupyter notebooks:
Step 1: Visit the NOAO DataLab website at https://datalab.noao.edu

Step 2: Click "Sign up" on the top-right of the screen. Follow the instructions by creating a username and password. Then, enter your name, email address, and your affiliation. If you do not have an affiliation, use "LSST PCW on Teen Astronomy Cafés". Click "Register" once all fields are filled out.

Step 3: Wait for a follow-up account activation email.

Step 4: Click "Login" on the top-right of the screen. Enter your username and password. Click "Log in".

Step 5: Return to the home page by clicking on "NOAO Data Lab" at the top of the screen.

Step 6: Click on the blue button labeled "Launch a Jupyter notebook". Enter your username and password (same as DataLab account). Click "Sign In".

Step 7: Click "notebooks", followed by "06_EPO", followed by "TeenAstronomyCafe". Here, you will have access to any of the available notebooks by selecting a folder and then the notebook file (ends with ".ipynb").

Note: The notebooks in your “notebooks" directory are a copy of the ones found under the read-only link to the “notebooks-latest” directory.  If you need to restore or update your notebooks with the most recent distributed versions, follow these steps:

1.  From the Jupyter dashboard, click on the “New” menu and select “Terminal”.
2.  At the prompt, type “getlatest”.  This will copy the contents of the read-only “notebooks-latest” link into a new directory named “notebooks_YYYYMMDD_HHMMSS”, where YYYYMMDD_HHMMSS refers to the current date and time.  This command will not touch the files in your base “notebooks/“ directory.
PDF attached is the guide for starting a Teen Astronomy Café program at your institution:
For questions, contact:
Connie Walker
520-331-2448 (cell)


Connie Walker
Tuesday 08/13
Time Block: 
3:30 - 5:00pm
Agave I/II