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2002 Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2002
Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI


Participants:  21 students; 11 instructors; 37 parents, siblings, and younger students

Introduction  •  Daytime Laboratories  •  Nighttime Observations  •  Students  •  Instructors


Students in front of Yerkes entrance
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The CfCP Yerkes Winter Institute is a three-day immersion program that allows middle- and high-school students to explore a scientific theme in depth under the guidance of Center researchers and educators. The theme for 2002 was Scaling Up, which encouraged the students to question how astrophysicists extrapolate simple measurements to understand the universe and its cosmic proportions.

In the three daytime laboratories, students investigated everyday objects (balloons, sugar cubes, and light bulbs) and extended their results to more substantial things (the TopHat telescope, the 90-foot dome for the great refractor, and the sun itself). The students were divided into three groups that rotated among the daytime experiments, made nighttime observations, and shared their investigations with parents, siblings, and younger students who joined us at the end of the institute.   [more photos]

A crucial aspect of the experience is the interactions between the students and research scientists. The residential experience provides numerous occasions for informal interactions beyond the extended laboratories. The presence of professors Juan Collar, Ed Kibblewhite, and Jonathan Rosner particularly enriched the institute this year. In addition to the wealth of knowledge, creativity, and experience that these individuals bring to the institute, their presence also provides a window to the type of individuals that scientists are.
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How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take to Match the Brightness of the Sun?

Prof. Juan Collar & Andy Puckett
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Everyday experience tells us that the further away a light is, the dimmer it appears. This experiment involved measuring the relationship of distance to the apparent brightness of a light bulb, and fitting these measurements to a mathematical function. The students combined this formula (brightness decreases as the square of the distance) with the distance to the sun and a measurement of how bright the sun appears to determine how many light bulbs would be equivalent to the sun. It turns out that you need a lot—about 8 billion billion billion of the small bulbs that were used in the experiment.   [more photos]

Students consstructing transmitter
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How Many Sugar Cubes Does It Take to Fill the Big Dome?

Walter Glogowski & Bill Fisher
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This investigation explored how models and scale are used in science. The laboratory activities used the simple sugar cube to understand how volume increased compared to linear dimensions as an object grows. The students used sugar cubes to work through a number of geometric and scaling activities (e.g., growing cubes from a 1x1x1 to the next and then the next size cubes, and doubling the volume of a cylinder). The students' efforts culminated in determining the size of the BIG dome and then calculating the number of sugar cubes that would be needed to fill it. In case you are curious, it would take about 3.5x10^9 sugar cubes, which would take over 110 years to count if one counted at a rate of a cube a second, twenty-four hours a day, and seven days a week.   [more photos]


Students tuning receiver
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UP, UP and AWAY!
How Many Helium Balloons Does It Take to Lift the TopHat Telescope?

Randy Landsberg
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This laboratory explored the buoyant force of the common helium-filled party balloon. A large part of this investigation involved the students devising their own experimental procedures and comparing their methods with those of their peers. The students made measurements, extrapolated their data to larger objects, tested their predictions, and then applied their collective data to much bigger objects.

Students and pendulum
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The first challenge was to determine how much lift one party balloon had. Based on this measurement, they predicted how many balloons would be needed to lift a 20-gram mass and tested their predictions. The students then pooled their results and identified the major sources of uncertainty (for example, balance only accurate to whole grams and variation in balloon sizes). They used this averaged data, with its associated uncertainty, to calculate how many balloons they would need to lift themselves, and finally, how many balloons would be required to lift the TopHat telescope (which, in reality, was flown over Antarctica in a long-duration helium balloon). The students determined that it would take about 10 to 20 thousand helium-filled party balloons to lift a person, and about 200,000 balloons to lift the TopHat telescope.   [more photos]
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Evening activities included exploring the clear Wisconsin winter sky with telescopes. Richard Dreiser employed an 8-inch telescope on the south lawn, while Professor Ed Kibblewhite offered students a more magnified view with the 24-inch refractor. Meanwhile, Professor Rosner and the students entered a contest to see who could contact the most and most distant radio operators. They deployed an odd-looking helium balloon to create a long range antenna for the 1.8 MHz amateur band. This set-up allowed the group to make radio contact with people as far away as Martinique in the Caribbean Sea.   [more photos]

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• Melissa Blakey
• Monashae Brownlee
• Derrick Clay
• Samantha Dewberry
• Jessica Dillard
• Timotheus Gordon
• Ashley Hall
• Virginia Hayes
• Javal Howard
• Lynn Jones
• Danielle Larkin
  • Arron Lucas
• Jameal Mathis
• Larry McDonald
• Paula Montgomery
• Jeminat Onisemoh
• Jimmie Price
• Christopher Smith
• Erica Stevens
• Albert Sweeten
• Montriece Wade
• Tamela Wilcoxon
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• Charles Brass
Juan Collar
• Richard Dreiser
• Bill Fisher
• Walter Glogowski
Al Harper
Ed Kibblewhite
• Randy Landsberg
• Andy Puckett
Jonathan Rosner
• Phil Wisecup

Introduction  •  Daytime Laboratories  •  Nighttime Observations  •  Students  •  Instructors