The planetarium presents free public shows on alternating Friday evenings. The shows provide a glimpse into the night sky, highlighting the wonders of the universe, its origins and our place among the cosmos; see the schedule. The observatory is located atop the physics department and is equipped with a 14-inch Celestron telescope for public viewing in concert with the planetarium shows.
The PSC is an NSF-ITEST funded project jointly run by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and physics faculty. Since it began in 2008, over 400 students have jointly searched for pulsars at the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), so far discovering four new pulsars as well as several as-yet unidentified bursts of radio waves. The project has had a positive impact in encouraging female and minority students to follow careers in STEM disciplines. This is evidenced by the incoming 2011 Physics class of 15 students at WVU, including four PSC alumni (three of whom are female).
The MARS program works with high school and middle school students primarily in north-central WV and is affiliated with the international FIRST robotics program. The middle school program currently works with over 40 robotics teams, partnered with the Educator Resources Center at the NASA IV&V Facility and 4-H. Teams consist of of 3-10 students and at least 1 coach, training both teachers and students. The high school program began in 2008 and currently includes over 30 youth and 20 mentors from a variety of scientific, engineering, and non-technical backgrounds. The program has spawned a program in southern WV and additional teams throughout the state are under development. MARS is a public-private partnership with corporations, foundations, and academic institutions contributing to the support of the program.
WVU received a grant to build a laser system to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the laser in 2010. WVU students visit West Virginian libraries and schools, especially in underprivileged areas, to inspire scientific interest in young people with laser light shows and hands-on activities. Due to the success of the LaserFest program, WVU students continue to tour and perform laser light shows and demonstrations.
In this cross-disciplinary collaboration, faculty from the physics, aerospace engineering, and chemistry departments mentor students in developing experiments to be flown on an ionospheric rocket (apogee: 120 km). The student team builds a payload and participates in a NASA-sponsored rocket launch from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia’s Eastern Shore. We encourage students from all STEM disciplines to join the team and build this year’s payload whose launch is scheduled for June 21, 2012. An optional 2-credit course (PHYS 493S) is offered each semester and counts as a technical elective for engineering majors. The program is co-sponsored by the NASA WV Space Grant Consortium.
Science Public Outreach Team (SPOT)
The West Virginia Science Public Outreach Team (SPOT) recruits and trains student ambassadors to bring presentations about current West Virginia space science, technology, and engineering to West Virginia K-12 classrooms, museums, and youth programs. WV educators can request Standards-based presentations and hands-on activities for their school or venue online. During the 2015-2016 academic year, SPOT reached over 4,800 students around the state. The program is currently supported through a collaboration among the Green Bank Observatory, the NASA WV Space Grant Consortium, NASA IV&V Facility, West Virginia University, Fairmont State University, WV Wesleyan College, Marshall University, WVU Institute of Technology, WV State, and Shepherd University, and is actively seeking new partners.
Instructors from the Departments of Physics and Chemistry
guide 7th, 8th and 9th grade students through fun activities that are designed to teach the fundamentals of science. The activities cover topics such as optics, electronics, nanotechnology and electronics. The goal of the camp is to encourage an interest in science among the students at the critical time in their education, which may hopefully lead to careers in STEM disciplines. This program is sponsored by WVU and NSF
Women in Physics Peer (WIPP) Mentoring
This program groups a faculty member, post docs, graduate students, undergraduate students, and high school students for monthly informal discussions on issues of interest to future scientists (such as career opportunities, networking, conferences and work-life balance). Because group mentoring involves multiple individuals, it promotes diversity of thinking, practice and understanding in a time-efficient manner. Future peer groups will be expanded to include other underrepresented groups as well as other science students that desire to participate.
The West Virginia Chapter of the Association for Women in Science sponsors an annual conference for middle school girls to participate in hands-on workshops that explore a variety of science and mathematics topics. The conferences are held on a Saturday in April in a different location in West Virginia each year. The conference is supported by a grant from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, Division of Science and Research.