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2002 Yerkes Summer Institute
August 3 - 9, 2002
Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI


Participants:  24 students; 9 instructors; 80 parents, siblings, and younger students

Introduction  •  Daytime Laboratories  •  Nighttime Observations  •  Instructors


Students at Opening Night
 Opening Night (click to enlarge)
The Yerkes Summer Institute (YSI) is a one-week, immersive, residential science program for inner-city middle and high school students held at the historic Yerkes Observatory. The full week duration and morning till late night schedule encourages the participants to delve deeply into one particular subject. Perhaps more importantly, the structure facilitates extended discussions and interactions between researchers and students, and peer-to-peer communication. The instructional staff is a mix of research scientists and educators. This mixture ensures that the science is on track and that the student activities are grounded in reality.
Radio Waves, the theme of 2002 YSI, builds upon the investigations that the Space Explorers had conducted during the spring when they constructed old fashioned crystal radio receivers. In addition to the spring laboratory experiences, the students were provided with background materials that helped to prepare them for the institute.
Star Party
Star Party (click to enlarge)

After introductions and an overview of the week, the institute began with a Star Party hosted by amateur astronomers. The rest of the week was spent cycling through interrelated daytime laboratories in small groups, nighttime observations, peer discussions, and deeper explorations into each laboratory (see Schedule).

The week culminated with student presentations that engaged their parents, siblings and younger students in the experiments that they conducted during the week, and a closing ceremony where certificates of accomplishment were presented.   [more photos]

Younger student and telescope Two students Award ceremony
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Satellite dish and observatory dome

Student with charts
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Listening to the Sun
Walter Glogowski & Daisuke Nagai
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Students used a large dipole antenna that they constructed, and a small 2-meter parabolic dish to make radio observations. By collecting and analyzing data, the students gained an understanding of how radio astronomers study the universe. They accomplished this in two ways.

First, they listened to and recorded the strength of a radio signal from Fort Collins, Colorado, at 15MHz. The students soon realized that the only way for this signal to reach Yerkes Observatory was for it to bounce off the ionosphere and back down to earth. Through this they learned about the important role the sun plays in making the ionosphere reflective, and how large- to medium-size solar flares can cause disruptions in radio signals. They then applied this knowledge to indirectly monitor solar flare activity.

The students also used a small parabolic dish set to receive a signal at 1.4 GHz. This conventional radio telescope was used to both listen to the sun and listen to the galaxy as it rotates by the earth. This investigation allowed the students to gain an understanding of how a radio telescope collects and concentrates radio signal at its foci and how celestial objects produce radio emissions.   [more photos]

Students consstructing transmitter
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Click to enlarge

The Other Side of Crystal Radio:
Basics of AM Radio Transmission

Ryan Hennessy & Bill Fisher
PDF symbolHandout

This laboratory was the compliment of the spring crystal radio construction laboratory. The students constructed amplitude modulated (AM) transmitters and then experimented with them. The construction process involved wonderful hands-on activities including soldering and building circuits.

In addition to the abundance of hands-on laboratory techniques, the laboratory was steeped in the theory of amplitude modulation radio transmission. Once the students had successfully constructed and tested their transmitters, they then used them to measure the effects of distance (1/r2) and orientation (e.g., polarization), and to transmit to the crystal radio receivers that they had constructed in the spring.   [more photos]


Students tuning receiver
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Students and pendulum
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Resonance, or How to Tune a Radio
Randy Landsberg & Matt Hedman
PDF symbolHandout

This laboratory demystified the phenomena of resonance, which is central to both broadcast radio and radio astronomy.

The students first explored natural frequencies of simple mechanical systems such as a set of different sized paper rings and a pendulum. This provided them with physical feel for natural frequencies and how they can be altered.

Next, the students explored a forced harmonic oscillator and the effect of altering the frequency at which it is driven. The dramatic increase in amplitude associated with driving the system at its natural frequency provided them with a concrete example of resonance. Examples of good resonance (a child's swing set) and bad resonance (a building's collapse in an earthquake) were discussed.

Armed with this mental model, the students then made quantitative measurements of a radio broadcast as the receiver was tuned and de-tuned to the signal frequency.   [more photos]

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Students and telescope
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The evening observations utilized the great 40-inch refractor, which is the world's largest refractor or lens type telescope; a number of smaller telescopes that the students were able to control; the parabolic radio antenna; and their naked eyes. Where possible, the objects observed were ones that are active in radio as well as visible frequencies.

These evening observations helped induce a sense of awe and wonder.

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Click to enlarge

• Charles Brass
• Kyle Cudworth
• Bill Fisher
• Walter Glogowski
Matthew Hedman
Ryan Hennessy
Randall H. Landsberg
Daisuke Nagai
• Phil Wisecup

Introduction  •  Daytime Laboratories  •  Nighttime Observations  •  Instructors