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2010 Annual Science Report

Arizona State University Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

EPO Activity: Education and Public Outreach - Task 3 - Public Outreach

Project Progress

The Astrobiology program at ASU participated in several flagship public outreach events during the FY2009-2010 year. These events took place at the ASU Tempe campus and at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Attendance at these events was 7,066 visitors. The audience at events included families, teachers, ASU students, staff and faculty, and the general public. Team members also participated in numerous smaller events (e.g., presentations in K-12 classrooms) not summarized here.

International Year of Astronomy, Arizona Science Center
The ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration partnered with the Arizona Science Center located in downtown Phoenix, during the Fall 2009 to present hands-on activities for the Center’s International Year of Astronomy (IYA) program series. Each monthly event highlighted a unique astronomy theme ranging from the history of the universe to the discovery of exoplanets. Astrobiology staff and scientists from the Follow the Elements project attended four events from September to December and presented a display on the project (Figure 1), presented hands-on activities including foam floor puzzles (Figure 2), touchable specimens, and a version of the lesson, Search for a Habitable Planet (Figure 3). Visitors were able to ask questions and interact with ASU staff, students and scientists. This successful program series has spurred continued interactions between ASU and the Science Center. The School of Earth and Space Exploration was invited to attend Center’s Astronomy Day public program on April 4, 2010. The Follow the Elements project was featured at this event as part of the School’s outreach display. Discussions are currently underway with the Science Center on a collaborative astrobiology lecture series to be presented in the Center’s Dorrance Planetarium.

ASU Public Events
The Follow the Elements project participated in two major public outreach events held on the ASU Tempe campus in late October 2009 – The Earth and Space Exploration Day (October 24) and ASU’s Homecoming Block Part (October 31). The Earth and Space Exploration day is a free annual fall event hosted by the School of Earth and Space Exploration on ASU’s Tempe campus outside the Bateman Physical Sciences F-wing. The School offers special science-related activities for students age five and up, families, educators and anyone interested in exploring Earth and space alongside real scientists. Visitors can explore Tempe Butte on a guided field trip, pan for gold, dig for meteorites, make an alien, or bring rock samples for Dr. Rock to examine. The Follow the Elements project presented a the hands-on activity, Search for a Habitable Planet, where visitors created an alien (Figure 5) and interacted with astrophysicist Dr. Patrick Young (Figure 4) and other staff to find a suitable home for their alien within our solar system.

ASU’s annual Homecoming Block Party is part of the University’s expanding Homecoming celebration featuring over 75 tents hosted by various schools, departments and organizations. The event’s KidZone offers activities geared toward children of all ages. ASU Astrobiology presented one of six activity tables in the School of Earth and Space Exploration’s display (Figure 6).

In addition to these events, the Astrobiology program participated actively in the public outreach activities of collaborators Paul Davies and Lawrence Krauss. For example, PI Anbar is now serving as an Associate Director of Krauss’ Origins Project, in which capacity he is aiding in the planning of future outreach and other activities tied to the origin of life.