• IPAC

Summer Visit - 2010 - IR Variability team

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.

The IR Variablity team came to visit Caltech in August 2010.


  • I was very impressed at how quickly our three teams turned into one. Our students worked together seamlessly from the beginning of our trip. Each student brought their strengths to the table and shared them willingly. Each group went through frustrations, made mistakes, had to backtrack, got angry, but still came through in the end with good solid data. When expectations were raised, the team rose to reach them. Teachers and astronomers invested fully in all students and students responded by calling on any team member for help when needed.
  • [I was surprised] that the students, given an interesting task, could stay on task for hours at a time. When I mentioned to parents following the trip that I was amazed at how well the students stayed on task, A. interjected that it wasn't so hard, since they were being challenged to use new tools to reach achievable results.
  • [student] This was surely one of the best experiences I had ever been on.
  • What I considered to be the "real" science that came out of this visit was how we needed to treat the data. Students are used to doing "canned" laboratory assignments and have the misconception that all data is "good". In class when I ask students to consider an errant data point, they are apt to respond "but that's the data, I have to use it". Its difficult to convey the idea that not all data is good data, and if there is reason, data points can and should be disregarded. We found data points that were erroneous, whether because they were cosmic rays, they came from pixels located near the edge of the detector, or we had transferred information incorrectly. In each of these situations, we logically considered the data and had reason to include or exclude data points. We also double checked any suspicious or inconsistent data until we were convinced that we were working with reliable numbers.
  • [student:] There was some frustration today, but we all pushed past it and got the majority of the work done.

Summer Visit - 2010 - IR Variability team