Space Explorers
Space Explorers
The Space Explorers Program connects local, under-represented minority students with the university research community. Students participate in weekly hands-on, in-depth laboratory sessions, residential science institutes at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, visits to research labs, and enrichment field trips.

Please contact Randall Landsberg, the Director of Education & Outreach, with any ideas, comments, or questions about the Institute's efforts.
Space Explorers
December 27 - 29, 2013Transforming Energy, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 4 - 10, 2013Colors Answers, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2012Vision, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 5 - 11, 2012Making & Breaking, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2011Up!: Thrust, Buoyancy, and Drag, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 7 - 13, 2011Detectors/Super Sensing, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2010Surface Area, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 7 - 13, 2010Simple Machines, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2009Exploring the Solar System, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 1 - 7, 2009The Physics of Sound, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2008Cosmic Detectives, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 2 - 8, 2008Energy Transformations, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2007Mapping Motion, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 4 - 10, 2007Mapping, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2006Scale of the Universe, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 5 - 11, 2006Sink or Swim? Exploring Buoyancy & Density, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2005Under Pressure, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 6 - 12, 2005The Nature of Light, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2004Reflections, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 7 - 13, 2004What are stars made of?, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2003Phase Changes, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 2 - 8, 2003How Big is Our Universe?, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2002Scaling Up, Yerkes Winter Institute
August 3 - 9, 2002Radio Waves, Yerkes Summer Institute
December 27 - 29, 2001Sound Investigations, Yerkes Winter Institute

 
Transforming Energy, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2013 | Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, WI
Transforming Energy, Yerkes Winter Institute
In this years Yerkes Winter Institute, students will learn about how energy can be transformed using the concept of mechanical advantage to make the most of the resources at their disposal. This idea will be introduced by studying how pulleys can be used to ease the lifting of heavy weights and how levers can be transformed into catapults to launch things great distances. They will then put their intuition of energy transformation to the test while competing to construct the most complicated Rude Goldberg machine, understanding each stage of energy transfer along the way.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Keith Bechtol; Juan I. Collar; Randall H. Landsberg; Tongyan Lin; M. Ted Ressell
KICP Students: Samuel Meehan
 
Colors Answers, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 4 - 10, 2013 | Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, WI
Colors Answers, Yerkes Summer Institute
Photo Gallery

Instructors: Louis Abramson, Ross Cawthon, Dylan Hatt, Sean Johnson, Randy Landsberg, Samuel Meehan, Sean Mills, Kyle Story, Kat Ziegler

The Yerkes Summer Institute (YSI) is a week long, residential, science camp for inner-city high school students in the Space Explorers Program. In addition to providing the students a science immersion experience, it offers many teaching, curriculum design, communications and team working opportunities for the instructors, who are generally early career scientists.

YSI 2013 focused on the information content of color as an investigative tool. In each lab, students applied a different type of spectrometer to measure the wavelength or, roughly-speaking, color components of light in order to identify the composition of unknown objects or substances. During the first part of the week, students cycled through three different day-long laboratories, which focused on color vision, food color dyes, and stellar spectra. These daytime activities led to two days of extension activities in which groups of students investigated in greater depth one of the labs and prepared a presentation on their findings for their parents and peers. Nighttime activities focused on observations with the Yerkes Observatory telescopes and creation of colorful art.

In "Seeing Color", students learned how color vision is the measurement of a wavelength spectrum by the eye. Students tested the usefulness of the eye as a spectroscopic tool by creating red-green-blue (RGB) histograms of low-resolution images to uniquely identify objects and pictures. In the conclusion of the laboratory, students recreate the process of color vision by applying RGB filters to produce a number of black and white photographs, which were then recombined with false color to form color images.

The "Liquid Colors" lab discovered the properties of absorbance and transmittance for common FD&C dyes (e.g., Blue No. 1) using visible light spectrometers, Spectronic-20's, and then applied that knowledge to identify the composition of common colored beverages (e.g., Gatorade).

During the "Barcoding the Stars" lab, students built their own spectrographs to observe the unique spectral signature of elements here on Earth in gas discharge lamps. After gaining an understanding of basic atomic physics, students used standardized spectra to identify the composition of stars.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Randall H. Landsberg
KICP Students: Louis Abramson; Dylan Hatt; Sean Johnson; Samuel Meehan; Kyle Story
 
Vision, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2012 | Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, WI
Vision, Yerkes Winter Institute
Photo Gallery

Lab Instructors: Dylan Hatt, Alissa Bans, Juan Collar, Walter Glogowski, Randy Landsberg, Tongyan Lin, Sean Mills, and Denis Erkal (lab development).

The 2012 Yerkes Winter Institute focused on the eye and how the world is perceived through vision. Three daytime laboratories that explored different aspects of human vision formed the core of the institute:
  • Critical Flicker Factor,
  • Stop Motion Video,
  • Alien Vision.
In the Critical Flicker Factor lab the students investigated the differences between rods and cones, the two types of photoreceptors within the eye; this included the perception of color and detail, and the minimum response time to notice a changing stimulus. The Stop Motion Video lab explored this finite response time and how it influences our perception of motion. In the lab, students determined the limits of frame rates and applied this to the creation of stop-motion videos based on scientific principles and phenomena (see videos). While human vision encompasses only a small portion of electromagnetic spectrum, some animals can take advantage of a greater range, which students studied through experiments with the infrared and ultraviolet in the Alien Vision lab. Poor weather did not permit telescope observations but everyone enjoyed other evening activities including a video showcase of the students' own stop motion productions.

Nineteen (19) Space Explorers and seven (7) instructors were in residence at the Institute, and thirty-five (35) parents, siblings and family members joined the last day of the institute for the student presentations and the closing ceremony.

Participant Survey Excerpts:
94% of participants would recommend it to their friends
  • "That I learned about my eyes and I know how they work"
  • "[Most Valuable] Learning about everyday things we take for granted"
  • "I learned that cones are for the day time and rods are for dim or dark light"
  • "I really enjoyed the whole thing, but I just wish that we could have been able to look out the telescopes."
  • "I enjoy coming to Yerkes to learn about science."

YWI 2012 "Vision" - Laboratory Descriptions:
Critical Flicker Factor (Dylan Hatt, Tongyan Lin)
There are many parts of the eye that allow us to see the way we do, but the ability to see light depends on biological detectors within the eye. There are two main types of detector cells. The cones allow us to see the bright and colorful world during the day, and the rods allow us to find our way at night when it is dark. In this laboratory, we will discover how our perception of the world changes based on whether it is light or dark and how the eye switches between one tool of vision to another.
Stop Motion (Sean Mills, Walter Glogowski, Randy Landsberg)
In this lab we will explore how one can make still images look like they are moving. We will use a zoetrope, a mechanical precursor to a movie projector, to examine the limits of when still images appear to move and when they do not. Finally we will create our own stop motion movies. You will be the writer, producer, director and possibly star of these short motion pictures with a point.
Alien Vision (Juan Collar, Alissa Bans)
What if you could see the world in a whole new light? Not just a new perspective, but literally, what would the world look like if we could see outside the normal boundaries of human vision? While our unaided eye can only detect a small range of light, with technology we can detect light spanning from radio waves to gamma-rays! In this lab, not only will we be experimenting with how objects appear in these exotic forms of light, but we will also demonstrate that even though this light is invisible to your eye it shares the exact same properties of visible light. We will use these properties to "see" the invisible and learn a little bit about what it would be like to have alien vision!


Related Links:
KICP Members: Juan I. Collar; Randall H. Landsberg; Tongyan Lin
KICP Students: Alissa Bans; Denis Erkal; Dylan Hatt
 
Making & Breaking, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 5 - 11, 2012 | Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, WI
Making & Breaking, Yerkes Summer Institute
Photo Gallery

Instructors: Alissa Bans, Juan Collar, Nicole Fields, Dylan Hatt, Sean Johnson, Chris Kelso, Randy Landsberg,Reid Sherman, Kyle Story.

The Yerkes Summer Institute (YSI) is a week long, residential, science camp for inner-city high school students in the Space Explorers Program. In addition to providing the students a science immersion experience, it offers many teaching, curriculum design, communications and team working opportunities for the instructors, who are generally early career scientists.

YSI 2012 explored destructive testing as a tool for understanding stress, strain, and safety devices. In each lab, students studied the basic physics underlying a device, designed their own device, and then employed destructive testing to improve their designs. Monday through Wednesday, students cycled through three different day long laboratories, which examined bridge failure, crash tests, and the effects of earthquakes on structures. These daytime activities lead to two days of extension activities in which groups of students further investigated a lab and prepared a presentation on their findings for their parents and peers. Nighttime activities focused on observations with the Yerkes Observatory telescopes.

In the "Spanning the Gap: Bridges" lab students studied the fundamentals of bridge design, especially how bridges accommodate loads (static stresses). They designed and constructed their own bridges, which they then stress tested by loading with progressively more weight, until they failed. Finally, the students applied what they had learned from the failure modes to build better bridges.

The "Humpty Dumpty: Crash Test" lab investigated the extreme stresses that occur during a car crash using a pinewood derby car with an egg as a proxy for a passenger. After exploring impact stress, stopping distances, deceleration and how seat belts, airbags and crumple zones lessen damage, the students designed safety devices to protect an egg during a derby car crash test. Although none of the initial student designs were successful, by experimenting with different seatbelt and airbag configurations, the students iteratively improved their designs until they were able to keep their egg passengers safe.

During the "Quaking Towers: Shake Table" lab, students investigated strategies employed to help buildings withstand the powerful dynamic stresses of an earthquake. They then designed and constructed "earthquake resistant" model sky-scrappers, using an evolved form of Tinker Toys called K'nex. These model buildings were tested on a homemade shake table, which simulated earthquake conditions. The dynamic stress tests were documented via video, and careful frame-by-frame analysis helped the students to determine where and how their buildings had failed, which lead to improved designs.

Participant Survey excerpts:
77% felt there were connections between the Yerkes labs and everyday life (e.g., I usually don't wear seatbelts, now I understand why its important to wear it.)
94% would recommend this institute to their friends
  • "I love this experience and it really helped me learn more things about science and things in general."
  • "I really enjoyed this trip because I learned a lot about how to improve buildings, cars, and bridges. You cannot just build something in a little amount of time."
  • "I think it was a fun experience. I learned a lot about ways of improving everyday things that I had never thought about."


Related Links:
KICP Members: Juan I. Collar; Randall H. Landsberg
KICP Students: Alissa Bans; Nicole Fields; Dylan Hatt; Sean Johnson; Christopher M. Kelso; Kyle Story
 
Up!: Thrust, Buoyancy, and Drag, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2011 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Up!: Thrust, Buoyancy, and Drag, Yerkes Winter Institute
Photo Gallery

The 2011 Yerkes Winter institute focused on things that float and fly: rockets and balloons. The students found scaling relations in order estimate the answer to questions such as:
  • How many helium balloons would it take to lift a Space Shuttle?
  • How much pressure is required to launch a pressurized rocket into the Jet Stream?
  • At what airspeed does drag become important for a rocket?
The students gained first-hand experience in the art/science of figuring out which assumptions are appropriate when making approximations.

Instructors: Alissa Bans, Nicole Fields, Walter Glogowski, Sean Johnson, Christopher Kelso, Randy Landsberg, Amol Upadhye.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Randall H. Landsberg; Amol Upadhye
KICP Students: Alissa Bans; Nicole Fields; Christopher M. Kelso
 
Detectors/Super Sensing, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 7 - 13, 2011 | Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, WI
Detectors/Super Sensing, Yerkes Summer Institute
Photo Gallery

The 2011 Yerkes Summer Institute focused on detectors and the impact these devices have had in enhancing humanity's ability to understand the universe. Taking traditional photography, high-speed and time-lapse photography, and active sonic imaging as examples, students spent a week exploring how these technologies have extended human memory, opened the time domain, and illuminated the world at beyond-visual-range. Over the course of the institute, students built their own detectors and learned to interpret their detections. They gained a hands-on understanding of how their instruments worked and came to grips with fundamental questions regarding the relationships between inputs and outputs and the distorting effects of error.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Randall H. Landsberg
 
Surface Area, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2010 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Space Explorers Instructors, 2010
Photo Gallery

The 2010 KICP Yerkes Winter Institute explored the importance of surface area. Over three days, students cycled through three daytime laboratories ranging from a parachute experiment, "What a Drag", to the basics of friction, "Slip Sliding Away", to the influence of surface area on reaction rates, "Plop Plop Fizz Fizz...". Nighttime activities included exploring the wonders of the winter sky by hunting for constellations, satellites, and planets using both naked eyes and binoculars. The birth and evolution of stars were also investigated by observing the Pleides and the Orion Nebula with the 24-inch telescope. While, another evening lab explored the importance of "collisional cross sections," in physical, chemical, and even astronomical reactions by examining the concept of cross sections via a kinesthetic learning experience, aka a snowball fight. The instructors in residence included five KICP graduate students and a public school teacher, another half dozen KICP member helped to design experiments and plan the institute.

Instructors: Louis Abramson, Alissa Bans, Immanuel Buder, Matt Bayliss, Nicole Fields, Walter Glogowski.

Related Links:
KICP Students: Louis Abramson; Alissa Bans; Matthew B. Bayliss; Immanuel Buder; Nicole Fields
 
Simple Machines, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 7 - 13, 2010 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Simple Machines, Yerkes Summer Institute
Photo Gallery

The 2010 KICP Yerkes Summer Institute was all about "work" and understanding the fundamentals and applications of Simple Machines. In the "Lift" lab the students learned about the physics of work against gravity with pulleys and a block and tackle. The "Trebuchet" lab was an examination of the physics of the lever and more, as it involved the construction of individual popsicle-stick sized trebuchets and a modest scale (~10 foot) modern siege machine. The "Gears" lab delved into mechanical advantage and disadvantage, how to calculate them, and how to apply them in the real world. The nighttime activities focused on observing the night sky with the naked eye, binoculars and the observatory telescopes as well as using gears to track celestial objects for astrophotography and capturing images on a research grade CCD. The institute culminated with student presentations to parents and peers. Each of three reporting groups made a presentation about the laboratory that they had spent two additional days (12 hours) of extension activities exploring. As well as the high school participants, nine (9) young KICP scientists gained valuable teaching, team-working and communications skills planning and executing this week long, science immersion experience.

Instructors: Louis Abramson, Alissa Bans, Matt Bayliss, Kyle Cudworth, Nicole Fields, Vivian Hoette, Florin Ionita, Chris Kelso, Yeunjin Kim, Rich Kron, Randy Landsberg, Melanie Simet, Kyle Story.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg
KICP Students: Louis Abramson; Alissa Bans; Matthew B. Bayliss; Nicole Fields; Florin Ionita; Christopher M. Kelso; Yeunjin Kim; Melanie Simet; Kyle Story
 
Exploring the Solar System, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2009 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Rocket Lab
Photo Gallery

The three day, residential, 2009 KICP Yerkes Winter Institute was about exploring. Building on conversations earlier in the year with UC alumnus and NASA astronaut, John Grunsfeld, the "Rocket Lab" involved basic concepts of rocket science with the students designing constructing, testing, and improving their own compressed air paper rockets. In "Orientations of the Solar System" they explored how the motions and positions of the Earth-Moon-Sun system lead to the seasons, sunsets, eclipses, moon phases, and more. Finally in "Modeling the Solar System" the Space Explorers constructed two different scale models to understand the relative distances and sizes of the planets. Evening activities investigated planets beyond our solar system, exoplanets. The 24-inch telescope was used for a transit technique experiment and a computer based orbital motion simulator was employed to demonstrate how astrometry is used to detect a planet orbiting a distant star.

Instructors: Alissa Bans, Nicole Fields, Walter Glogowski, Chris Kelso, Randy Landsberg, Kyle Story.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Randall H. Landsberg
KICP Students: Alissa Bans; Nicole Fields; Christopher M. Kelso; Kyle Story
 
The Physics of Sound, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 1 - 7, 2009 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
The Physics of Sound
Photo Gallery

The unifying theme of the 2009 KICP Yerkes Summer Institute was "Sound". During an immersive, week long, science camp the Space Explorers, inner-city Chicago Public School students, investigated many aspects of sound. Day long laboratory activities included: constructing and analyzing musical instruments, measuring the speed of sound and examining the wave nature of sound. Evening experiments included viewing the night sky with the observatory telescopes, an investigation into the directionality of hearing including how certain animals excel at it, and the oral tradition of creating stories about constellations. YSI, as always, is an exceptional experience due to the instructors, who taught at Yerkes and worked together months in advance to plan and develop the institute. The instructional staff in residence included eight (8) graduate students, three (3) post docs and five (5) senior people.

Instructors: Alissa Bans, Matt Bayliss, Brad Benson, Kyle Cudworth, Nick Halmagyi, Vivian Hoette, Chris Kelso, Yeunjin Kim, Rich Kron, Zosia Krusberg, Randy Landsberg, Sam Leitner, Reid Sherman, Jennifer Sobeck, Kyle Story, Phil Wisecup.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Bradford A. Benson; Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg; Jennifer Sobeck
KICP Students: Alissa Bans; Matthew B. Bayliss; Christopher M. Kelso; Yeunjin Kim; Zosia Krusberg; Samuel N. Leitner; Kyle Story
 
Cosmic Detectives, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2008 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Cosmic Detectives: hidden messages
Photo Gallery

During the 2008 Yerkes Winter Institute (YWI) the Space Explorers became cosmic detectives and used their investigative skills to search for evidence, clues, correlations and other conclusions that could be drawn from "cosmic crime scenes". Eighteen (18) Space Explorers, one (1) Returning Scholar (i.e., a former Space Explorer acting as a junior instructor during their college break), and nine (9) laboratory instructors enjoyed snow filed investigations. "Hidden Messages" explored cryptography, "Footprints" examined the archetypal clue, a footprint, with the twist of electrostatic print lifting, and "Splat" examined a fairy tale catastrophe, Humpty Dumpty's fall combined with the physics of projectiles. Nighttime sleuthing activities included telescope observations of "hidden messages" in the Orion Nebula, determining which objects emit their own light via binoculars and deduction, and a giant puzzle of Sloan Digital Sky Survey data of the Andromeda galaxy (M31).

Instructors: Alissa Bans, Matt Bayliss, Charles Brass, Kyle Cudworth, Bill Fisher, Robert Friedman, Nick Halmagyi, Vivian Hoette, Florin Ionita, Jon Jezak, Chris Kelso, Yeun-Jin Kim, Rich Kron, Zosia Krusberg, Randy Landsberg, Reid Sherman, Chris Thom, Amol Upadhye, Phil Wisecup.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg; Chris Thom; Amol Ravindra Upadhye
KICP Students: Alissa Bans; Matthew B. Bayliss; Robert Friedman; Florin Ionita; Christopher M. Kelso; Yeunjin Kim; Zosia Krusberg
 
Energy Transformations, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 2 - 8, 2008 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Energy Transformations
Photo Gallery

This week long, residential, science immersion experience investigated how energy is used and transformed. Three day long laboratories, which the students cycled through in small groups, each explored energy transformations. "Some Like it Hot" examined energy transfer from fundamental physics to applications of energy transfer in everything from home energy efficiency to energy transfer in ultra-energetic astrophysical events. "Solar Power" was about trapping energy from the sun and converting it into heat with solar ovens, into electricity with photovoltaic cells and into chemical energy via photosynthesis. "Turn the Crank" explored the inter-conversion of mechanical and electrical energy via generators/motors, windmills, bicycle generators, and a Rube Goldberg device. Evening activities explored the energetics of stars. One lab probed differences in colors and intensities of light from astronomical sources and how these properties relate to energy in binary, red giant and luminous blue stars. The other evening lab employed the 24-inch telescope to study a variety of nearby stellar systems and how energy production within these systems influences their immediate environments. The outstanding instructional staff was a mix of younger and more senior researchers as well as public school teachers. Twenty-three (23) Space Explorers, and nineteen (19) laboratory instructors participated in YSI 2008.

Instructors: Alissa Bans, Matt Bayliss, Charles Brass, Kyle Cudworth, Bill Fisher, Robert Friedman, Nick Halmagyi, Vivian Hoette, Florin Ionita, Jon Jezak, Chris Kelso, Yeun-Jin Kim, Rich Kron, Zosia Krusberg, Randy Landsberg, Reid Sherman, Chris Thom, Amol Upadhye, Phil Wisecup.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg; Chris Thom; Amol Ravindra Upadhye
KICP Students: Alissa Bans; Matthew B. Bayliss; Robert Friedman; Florin Ionita; Christopher M. Kelso; Yeunjin Kim; Zosia Krusberg
 
Mapping Motion, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2007 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Mapping Motion
Photo Gallery

The unifying theme of 2007 KICP Yerkes Winter Institute was mapping motion. This theme extended KICP's participation in the citywide Festival of Maps and directly connected to the weekly, Saturday, on campus, explorations of gravity. YWI examined the force of gravity and the ways in which scientists use our understanding of gravity to map motions in the Universe. Twenty-one (21) Space Explorers, and seven (7) laboratory instructors participated in YWI 2007. The day laboratories explored different aspects of motion and gravity. "Shoot the Monkey" involved a classic trajectory lab with the addition of creating an accurate comic flipbook to depict the physics involved. "Galileo's Pendulum" examined what variables influence the motion of a pendulum and how a pendulum can function as a clock. "Weighing a Black Hole" combined basic orbital mechanics with recent observations of the motion of stars around the Galaxy's central black hole to calculate how massive it is. Evening activities included observing the night sky with binoculars, "Big Eyes", and a special presentation by KICP Visiting Scholar Joao de Mello about the Pierre Auger Observatory and its recent results on tracing the source of ultra-high energy cosmic rays back to activity caused by extremely massive black holes at the center of galaxies.

Instructors: Charles Brass, Kyle Cudworth, Joao de Mello, Walter Glogowski, Vivian Hoette, Zosia Krusberg, Rich Kron, Randy Landsberg, Christopher Thom, Jeremy Tinker, Aurora Tyagi, Phil Wisecup.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg; Chris Thom; Jeremy Tinker
KICP Students: Zosia Krusberg
 
Mapping, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 4 - 10, 2007 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Mapping: finding the right direction
Website | Photo Gallery

Scales, coordinate systems, contour maps, and multi-wavelength astronomy are just a few of the concepts that the Space Explorers delved into during the KICP Yerkes Summer Institute (YSI) under the overarching theme of "Mapping." YSI is a week-long, residential, science immersion experience for inner-city middle and high school students held at the historic Yerkes Observatory. A team that includes researchers from the University of Chicago, public school science teachers, and staff from the Office of Special Programs (OSP), our community partner, staffs the institute. The combination of pedagogical expertise, scientific expertise, interested students, and large blocks of time creates a memorable experience for everyone involved.

The theme of YSI 2007, "Mapping," was inspired by the citywide Festival of Maps. Three daytime laboratories were developed for the institute to highlight different aspects of cartography. Mapping the Invisible investigated how astronomers use "invisible" colors such as infrared light to map and understand star-forming regions. Mapping the Yerkes Grounds involved students creating their own maps and testing their accuracy with a scavenger hunt. Projections explored elevation profiles and contour maps. The three nighttime laboratories: Mapping Nebulae in Multiple Wavelengths, Constellations, Determining the Structures of Galaxies, although somewhat dampened by rain this year, were also developed to fit the mapping theme.

Instructors: Matt Bayliss, Charles Brass, Kyle Cudworth, Robert Friedman, Walter Glogowski, Nick Halmagyi, Sarah Hansen, Vivian Hoette, Rich Kron, Zosia Krusberg, Randy Landsberg, Sav Sethi, Chaz Shapiro, Reid Sherman, Ivo Seitenzahl, Chris Thom, Aurora Tyagi, Phil Wisecup, Benjamin White.
Read more >>

Related Links:
KICP Members: Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg; Savdeep S. Sethi; Chris Thom
KICP Students: Matthew B. Bayliss; Robert Friedman; Sarah M. Hansen; Zosia Krusberg; Charles Shapiro
 
Scale of the Universe, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2006 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Scale of the Universe
Photo Gallery

The unifying theme of 2006 KICP Yerkes Winter Institute was scale. This theme built directly upon the autumn quarter Saturday laboratory sessions, which focused on the methods by which distance is measured in astronomy. Twenty-six (26) Space Explorers, four (4) Returning Scholars (i.e., former Space Explorers helping during their college break) and nine (9) laboratory instructors participated in YWI 2006. The day laboratories explored the power of scale models for astronomical distances. "Seasonal Myth Busters" examined distances in the Earth-Sun-Moon system and the phases of the moon with the aid of a mechanical clockwork model, an orrery, and a kinesthetic exercise. "Planets: How Big? How Far?" gave the students a real sense of the dramatic scales and distances within the solar system. It explored the volumes of, and distances to, the planets using scale models that the students constructed out of Play-dough. "Milky Way Model" involved a construction project of massive proportions, billions of stars and hundreds of light-years in size. In the 90-foot dome, the students created a model of the Milky Way galaxy which provided valuable insights into polar coordinates and a deeper understanding of the astronomical information contained in the data (e.g., composition and nature of matter in the galaxy, the optical obstruction caused by cold, dense Molecular Clouds, and the necessity of making astronomical observations at many frequencies). Evening activities extended the concept of scale. Students took a digital tour of the universe that featured SDSS data. They observed the moon with the 24-inch telescope and binoculars and determined the size of key features such as the sea of tranquility. Finally, on a night with poor weather, they viewed the classic "Powers of Ten" movie. With financial support from the Office of the Vice President for Research and with the support of the Dean of the Humanities Division, a new written and verbal communication component was added. This effort sought to improve communication skills by developing reading, writing and oral exercises, which are complimentary and connected to the student scientific investigations. This component was lead by an anthropology graduate student, who met with the students on campus after Saturday Labs and who also integrated writing activities into the 2007 Yerkes Summer Institute with pre-institute readings and BIG Questions expository writing exercises.

Instructors: Matt Bayliss, Mary Beard, Charles Brass, Kyle Cudworth, Bill Fisher, Robert Friedman, Walter Glogowski, Sarah Hansen, Vivian Hoette, Rich Kron, Randy Landsberg, Dan Robertson, Chaz Shapiro, Reid Sherman, Phil Wisecup.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg
KICP Students: Matthew B. Bayliss; Robert Friedman; Sarah M. Hansen; Charles Shapiro
 
Sink or Swim? Exploring Buoyancy & Density, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 5 - 11, 2006 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Hot air balloon launch
Photo Gallery

The theme of YSI 2006 was "Sink or Swim: Exploring Buoyancy & Density". Twenty-four (24) Space Explorers, thirteen (13) instructors and fifty (50) parents and siblings participated in this week long, residential, immersion experience. The institute was conceptually linked to the 2005-06 Saturday laboratory sessions, which explored pressure, especially air pressure. A memorable highlight of the institute was the in inflation and tethered launches of an actual 77,500 cubic foot hot air balloon. Daytime laboratories examined how density can be used to separate plastics for recycling, convection and how it results from changes in density caused by heating, and a qualitative investigation into what creates lift for a balloon. Nighttime activities included utilizing the observatory telescopes to examine dying stars, aka spectra of planetary nebulae and an exploration of the density of the moon to debunk the myth that it is made out of cheese.

Instructors: Matt Bayliss, Mary Beard, Charles Brass, Kyle Cudworth, Bill Fisher, Robert Friedman, Walter Glogowski, Sarah Hansen, Vivian Hoette, Rich Kron, Randy Landsberg, Dan Robertson, Chaz Shapiro, Reid Sherman, Phil Wisecup.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg
KICP Students: Matthew B. Bayliss; Sarah M. Hansen; Charles Shapiro
 
Under Pressure, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2005 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Under Pressure, Yerkes Winter Institute
Photo Gallery

The unifying theme of the KICP's 2005 Yerkes Winter Institute was Air Pressure, which intentionally built upon the Saturday laboratory content. Twenty-eight students (28), twelve instructors (12), and fifty-two (52) parents, siblings, and younger students attended. Another three (3) researchers helped develop experiments. Each of the day labs explored a different aspect of air pressure concentrating on the relationships between pressure and volume. "Tired Pressure" was a clever experiment to weigh a car by measuring the pressure and the area of the footprint of each tire. "Kinetic Theory of Gases" constructed a conceptual model of the microscopic reasons for changes in pressure and volume caused by changes in temperature and particle number or size, first with a physical activity involving a canvas drop cloth and tennis and ping pong balls, and then with a computer simulation for more quantitative studies. This activity was presented by KICP graduate students at the 2007 National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) national meeting. "Boyles Law" provided a compelling direct physical understanding of the relationship between pressure and volume of a gas using a bathroom scale and 30 cc syringes plugged with epoxy. Evening YWI activities, although shorter, retained the pressure theme. "Potato Projectile & Hydraulic Spitballs" employed pressure as a means of launching projectiles in an ether fueled potato cannon and with syringes and wet paper towels a.k.a. hydraulic spitballs. "HAWC/SOFIA & Clouds Activity" related pressure and atmospheric complications for observational astronomy. Evening Telescope Observations were, unfortunately, canceled due to poor weather.

Instructors: Charles Brass, Hsiao-Wen Chen, Kyle Cudworth, Tom Downs (lab developer), Bill Fisher, Walter Glogowski, Sarah Hansen, Vivian Hoette, Rich Kron, Randy Landsberg, Kathryn Miknaitis, Reid Sherman, John Vaillancourt, Phil Wisecup, Andrey Zhiglo.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg; Kathryn K. Schaffer
KICP Students: Tom Downes; Sarah M. Hansen
 
The Nature of Light, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 6 - 12, 2005 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
The Nature of Light
Photo Gallery

In honor of the World Year of Physics and the 100th anniversary of Einstein's "miraculous year", the theme of YSI 2005 was "The Nature of Light". Twenty-six (26) Space Explorers, twenty (20) instructors, and fifty (50) parents and siblings participated in this week long, residential, immersion experience. The institute reinforced concepts from the 2004-05 Saturday laboratory sessions, which explored the basics of light and its wave particle duality. A full six (6) hours was devoted to each day laboratory with twelve (12) additional hours allotted for extended investigations by small reporting groups. "The Photoelectric Effect" explored the quantum nature of light with physical model to demystify it and direct measurements of the photoelectric effect. "The Speed of Light" was a clever use of a television as a very fast detector that allowed the students to measure c to within twenty percent. "The Doppler Effect" explored the Doppler effect qualitatively with a buzzer on a string and then quantitatively by using a radar gun and a sound spectral analysis program to determine the frequency shift and its relation to speed. Evening laboratories included a study of quasar line broadening, related to the Doppler shift, the use of a CCD detector that was related to the photoelectric effect and finally an examination of supernova as standard candles.

Instructors: Charles Brass, Lisa Blair, Kyle Cudworth, Tom Downes, Bill Fisher, Robert Friedman, Walter Glogowski, Sarah Hansen, Vivian Hoette, Dragan Huterer, Rick Kessler, Rich Kron, Randy Landsberg, Douglas Rudd, Chaz Shapiro, Matthew Sharp, Ivo Seitenzahl, Reid Sherman, John Vaillancourt, Phil Wisecup , Brian Wilhite.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Dragan Huterer; Richard Kessler; Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg
KICP Students: Tom Downes; Sarah M. Hansen; Douglas H. Rudd; Charles Shapiro; Matthew Sharp
 
Reflections, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2004 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Reflections
Photo Gallery

The 2004 KICP Yerkes Winter Institute was held on December 27-29 at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI. (25 students, 10 instructors; 40 parents, siblings, and younger students attended). The theme of the 2004 Winter Institute was "Reflections", which built upon earlier explorations into the nature of light at the weekly Saturday Laboratories. The three daytime laboratories investigated reflections from flat and concave surfaces. The students empirically determined and tested the law of reflection (angle of incidence = angle of reflection); deconstructed a Newtonian telescope to understand how it works; and explored the power of collimating or beaming light and sound. Evening activities included utilizing the observatory telescopes and science lectures. Professor Rich Kron discussed galaxies and post-doc Brian Humensky lectured on gamma-ray astronomy.

Instructors: Charles Brass, Bill Fisher, Robert Friedman , Walter Glogowski, Andrew Hill, Brian Humensky, Rich Kron, Randy Landsberg, Erin Sheldon, Phil Wisecup.

Related Links:
KICP Members: Brian Humensky; Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg; Erin S. Sheldon
KICP Students: Robert Friedman
 
What are stars made of?, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 7 - 13, 2004 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
What are stars made of?
Website | Online Materials | Photo Gallery

Between summer and the school year the Space Explorers joined members of the KICP at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI for a week long investigation into spectroscopy structured around an organizing question, "What are stars made of?"

This summer the Space Explorers investigated spectroscopy with the theme: What are stars made of? Through a series of related laboratory explorations the students delved into the fundamentals of spectroscopy and its application to astronomical objects. They studied an assortment of spectra from pure elements and pure food coloring dyes to complex mixtures in solar, stellar and galactic spectra. In some cases the challenge was to produce the spectra and in others to analyze it.
Read more >>

Related Links:
KICP Members: Richard Kessler; Richard G. Kron; Randall H. Landsberg; Erin S. Sheldon; Monica Valluri
KICP Students: Carlos E. Cunha; Robert Friedman; Christopher Greer; Sarah M. Hansen; Douglas H. Rudd; Matthew Sharp
 
Phase Changes, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2003 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Phase Changes
Website | Online Materials | Photo Gallery

Participants: 28 students; 10 instructors; 35 parents, siblings, and younger students.

The Yerkes Winter Institute is three-day science immersion program held each year between Christmas and New Years during a break in the Chicago Public School academic year. The institute exposes inner city middle and high school students to research scientists and to the process of science. During the institute students cycle among three daytime laboratories, evening experiments, lectures, and observing (weather dependant). The institute culminates with presentations by the students to their parents and younger students about the institute laboratories.

The theme of the 2003 Winter Institute was Phase Changes, which was a natural extension of the weekly theme of temperature.
Read more >>

Related Links:
KICP Members: Randall H. Landsberg; Thushara A. Perera; Savdeep S. Sethi
KICP Students: Sarah M. Hansen; Andrew Puckett
 
How Big is Our Universe?, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 2 - 8, 2003 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
How Big is Our Universe?
Website | Online Materials | Photo Gallery

Participants: 28 students; 17 instructors; 50 parents, siblings, and younger students

This year the Space Explorers tackled a core cosmological conundrum with the unifying theme of "How Big is Our Universe?" They explored this question in a variety of manners, from constructing model solar systems on the Yerkes grounds, to analyzing Sloan Digital Sky Survey data, which they used to build a distance ladder that stretched 6.5 billion light years. These interrelated activities helped to focus the students on the concept of determining astronomical sizes and distances.

A number of pre-institute preparation sessions were held to motivate the investigations, and more practically, to develop needed skills. Topics ranged from a basic introduction to the components of the universe, to small angle approximations, to using software to measure apparent size. Students were also given a course booklet that contained an overview of the week, detailed schedules, and instructions for the different laboratory activities.
Read more >>

Related Links:
KICP Members: Matthew Hedman; Daniel E. Holz; Richard G. Kron; Mark Subbarao
KICP Students: Sarah M. Hansen; Jonathan Mitchell; Andrew Puckett
 
Scaling Up, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2002 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Scaling Up
Website | Online Materials | Photo Gallery

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.
Read more >>

Related Links:
KICP Members: Juan I. Collar; Randall H. Landsberg; Jonathan L. Rosner
KICP Students: Andrew Puckett
 
Radio Waves, Yerkes Summer Institute
August 3 - 9, 2002 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Star Party @ Yerkes Institute, 2002
Website | Online Materials | Photo Gallery

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

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.

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.

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.
Read more >>

Related Links:
KICP Members: Matthew Hedman; Randall H. Landsberg
KICP Students: Ryan Hennessy; Daisuke Nagai
 
Sound Investigations, Yerkes Winter Institute
December 27 - 29, 2001 | Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI
Phonographs & Speakers Lab
Website | Photo Gallery

Participants: 29 students; 9 instructors; 75 parents, siblings, and younger students

The Yerkes Winter Institute is a three-day immersion program that allows students to explore one topic in depth. This year the topic was Sound, which built upon the autumnal laboratory investigations. The students rotated among three interconnected daytime experiments, made nighttime observations, and shared their investigations with parents, siblings and younger students who joined us at the end of the institute.

The Yerkes environment provides a great contrast to the urban environment of Chicago. The institute is also a learning experience for the instructors. For example, by pairing classroom teachers with researchers, each partner can learn from the other's complementary skills.
Read more >>

Related Links:
KICP Members: Randall H. Landsberg
KICP Students: Ryan Hennessy