By Danielle Miller | August 8th, 2013
I can't believe that my NITARP summer trip is done, but it was SO much fun. I'm exhausted, but I don't think I've ever felt this way after a typical professional development thing for teachers.
Our week started with our trip from Orlando to Phoenix to Burbank then to Pasadena. The girls and I had smooth travels, which I was very thankful for. Our first day took us around the building we'd be working in with the other NITARP team that was there, then to our room to start working on the 200 stars we "looked at" as a team. (When I say that, what I mean is that we went to the Kepler Exoplanet Archive website, typed in a star ID number, normalized a light curve, looked a periodogram, looked at another periodogram, made a phase curve, then phase binned that light curve.) Each of the 4 small teams of our one bigger team had 50 stars to look at, then we combined all of our work. The result? Graphs, graphs, everywhere!
That afternoon, our team headed to Mt. Wilson, which I knew about, but for some reason I didn't realize how much history was there. It was very very cool. Let's be honest, who doesn't love Hubble? (the man... and the telescope too).
The next morning was our tour of JPL which, of course, was awesome. We got to see where spacecraft are assembled (one was in there too- http://smap.jpl.nasa.gov/) an indoor Mars yard, a cool museum with lots of my favorite solar system exploring robots (Cassini & Juno were there!!), and, typical for me, I spent what was probably too much money in the gift shop. Our tour guide also shared some really cool JPL history with us, most of which I didn't know and hope to learn more about soon!
We headed back to our graph wallpaper work room and got back to it. We had a bit of re-looking to do, but got a good bit of work done. The third day was our only full day to work which was a bit difficult after only working half the day the first two and the jet lag catching up to me, but we powered through. We realized that day we probably should have packed graphing calculators, as we became VERY familiar with the Stefan-Boltzmann law. By the end of the day, a new excel spread sheet, a few histograms and scatter plots latter... I think we found something. Maybe not exactly what we thought we would find in the first place, but definitely something. Science is so cool. I can't wait to share the feeling of working hard to solve problems to find (or maybe not find) an answer with my students this year. One of my favorite things about the week - other than the cool people and the nerd fun - was probably that 8 of our team of 13 were girls! Before heading back to Florida the next day, we had dinner with some friends and found a pretty cool antique shop where I scored some old Life magazines with Gemini 2 and Apollo 10 on the cover and one of my students found some cool old disneyland swag. Looking back, the trip was definitely better than I expected in every way - more fun, less stress (from a teacher point of view: it was my first time traveling (WAY) out of state with students and staying overnight somewhere with students), more learning... just awesome all around.
One of our fearless leaders summed up the experience in a pretty great way - "We know things about the Universe that no one else does..." - and even though it's cool, I can't wait for our next step... making our science poster and presenting it at the AAS in January. Until then...