• IPAC

Summer Visit - 2014 - HG-WELS

The summer visit to Caltech is 3-4 days long and is the only time during the year of work when all the participants on the team come together in person to work intensively on the data. Generally, each educator may bring up to two students to the summer visit that are paid for by NITARP, and they may raise funds to bring two more. The teams work at Caltech; the summer visit typically includes a half-day tour of JPL, which is a favorite site for group photos. Reload to see a different set of quotes.

The HG-WELS team came to visit in July 2014. The core team educators attended, plus 10 students.



  • [student:] Real astronomy is really numerical. It’s not looking through a telescope all the time, but I can’t really define “real astronomy.” It’s just kinda studying the sky. I expected to look at pictures of the sky and numbers, which we did. I didn’t think we’d be doing so many maths, just because I didn’t.
  • [student:] One of the best things about the trip was really getting to look through the data and make the graphs, so that the results of our study were visually apparent. It was like the ‘Aha!’ moment.
  • Most astronomy activities I’ve seen in workshops or online involve analyzing canned data where the results are already known. This might help teach students the process, but real astronomy (or any science) needs to analyze new data or existing data in ways not done before. The process is messy, the data confused or cloudy, the results uncertain, and sometimes you find out nothing you hoped to find. That’s real science. It’s using authentic, raw data to answer questions and draw conclusions. It can be frustrating but it’s also exhilarating. This visit was as I thought it would be – using tools to look at large amounts of data, trying to sort out what it all means, and not always getting what we’d hoped. The conclusion of my students was that they could actually do this sort of work successfully and be real scientists. It de-mystified the process, and I think improved their attitudes toward science research.
  • [student:] The sheer complexity of what we were doing was surprising to me. Yet, the steps were pretty simple. I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I was actually making headway in science.
  • [student:] I was surprised to learn that we didn’t have the results we thought we were going to have. I also wasn’t expecting to do so much Excel work, but I was glad we did because it was a great opportunity to learn.

Summer Visit - 2014 - HG-WELS