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2012 Annual Science Report

Carnegie Institution of Washington Reporting  |  SEP 2011 – AUG 2012

EPO Activity: First Light Saturday Science School

Project Progress

Carnegie Institution’s First Light Saturday Science School is a program for students in grades 6 through 8 who attend public and public charter schools in the District of Columbia. During the school year, First Light meets for three, 6-week sessions. Astrobiology is used as the overall theme and a different topic is explored in depth for the 6 week session. Students engage in experiential learning in both the laboratory and the field and each session includes an overnight trip. Over the past year, the focus in the three sessions was on exploration with machines, particularly robotic exploration. In the Fall 2011 session, students investigated simple machines by working on a project to design and build their own trebuchets. In the Winter and Spring 2012 sessions, students worked to design and build robots to investigate the environment using sensors linked to computers. First Light students also often meet with the scientists who are invited to lecture at the Carnegie Capital Science Evenings. A highlight in October 2011 was to meet informally with Carnegie‚Äôs Paul Butler and Washington Post science writer, Marc Kaufman to learn about exo-planets and the search for life beyond Earth. They also met with artificial intelligence expert and mathematician Erik Demaine in January 2012 as well as astronomer Brian Schmidt in February 2012. Field excursions included an afternoon exploring NASA exhibits at the US Science and Engineering Festival at the DC Convention Center and an overnight camping trip to the Delaware coast. Approximately 20 students attend each session and most students return for multiple sessions throughout their middle school years.

First Light students investigate and make machines

First Light student records data from his catapult test

First Light students display their sensing robots

First Light students plan to build their robot