IAU-OAD To Fund Six Grassroots Astronomy Projects In Africa

IAU-OAD Funds African projects.
An old shipping container converted into an "Astronomy Learning Hub" at a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria. Photo credit: IAU

The International Astronomical Union’s Office of Astronomy for Development (IAU OAD) has concluded its eighth annual call for proposals.

According to a release by the organisation, it has selected a total of 17 projects for funding, including six projects from Africa. The final list of projects emerged after a thorough review and evaluation processes carried out in two stages by both officials of the IAU-OAD and an independent review panel. The Call had 107 applicants from all over the world narrowed down to 39 after the first stage, and finally to 17 projects.

The Astronomy for Development funds sponsor projects that will address challenges around the globe using astronomy-based interventions. The 17 selected projects will receive the sum of €110,834 to support and carry out their activities for the year.

Projects selected in Africa include an astronomy program coupled with counselling sessions to support children in internally displaced camps in Nigeria; various projects to inspire, stimulate, and educate children from poorer socio-economic backgrounds in South Africa and East African countries, including:

Astro Molo Mhlaba, Western Cape, South Africa.

Astro Molo Mhlaba project targets the issues of inclusivity in South African science by engaging its most underrepresented group – black girls from underserved communities – in astronomy programs at various stages of education. The project provides these girls with tools and the motivation to be passionate about science, and to pursue a career in STEM.

The funding received by the project will cover the costs of continuing its programme in the schools where it is enrolled.

Hands-on Astronomy Curriculum Training for Primary and Secondary School Teachers, Nigeria.

Hands-on Astronomy Curriculum Training for Primary and Secondary School Teachers (HOACTS) is a sustainable local socio-economic development workshop through Astronomy, designed to promote astronomy appreciation among primary and secondary school science teachers with Physics and Engineering education students.

The project aims to promote Astronomy awareness using the CBSS 15cm David Levy comet Hunter Optical telescope with deep sky imaging camera and the 15cm Lunt Solar Telescope alongside relevant observing filters and software. It also looks to promote indigenous design and fabrication of small locally made optical telescopes using the CBSS 3-D Printer.

The funding from OAD will finance a 6-day practical workshop targeting two different zones (Northern and Western)of the country.

IDP Children’s Astronomy Outreach, Nigeria.

IDP Children’s Astronomy Outreach aims to teach the children to embrace peace and togetherness by bringing in seasoned counsellors and professionals to be a part of the project.

In its activities for 2020, it will use Astronomy as a tool to educate participants. The project expects to install solar-powered learning hubs in an IDP camp in Garki area of Abuja.

LAMPS: Leveraging Local Astronomy Site To Promote STEM, Madagascar.

LAMPS seeks to address misconception at grassroots levels by leveraging the existence of the future radio astronomy African VLBI Network (AVN) site in Arivonimamo, a rural town of around 30,000 population. Through Astronomy and STEM-oriented activities, it aims to promote STEM education; demonstrate the relevance of STEM for local socio-economic development; inform learners on the importance of Astronomy and STEM fields in daily life, and encourage them to pursue STEM-oriented studies and careers.

LAMPS is a two-stage outreach led by Ikala STEM, an association of women in STEM from Madagascar.

East Africa School of Astronomy, East African countries.

The project strives to strengthen the east Africa region astronomical community partnership via science diplomacy. It also aims to deliver short-term training that focuses on improving skills and competitiveness of careers of BSc and MSc graduates and students in astronomy and science-related fields.

EA-SA training incorporates how to use, practice and apply astronomical instruments, astronomical software, big data analysis and science communication skills. These skills, it believes, applies to multi-sector fields at governmental and industry level, that fits the modern technology and global market demand.

Networking and Skilling in Astronomy, Senegal.

The Networking and Skilling In Astronomy Project is a capacity-building project with a focus on a program that will be integrated into the existing Masters or Bachelors programmes in Physics and Mathematics. The project also involves all key actors (university students, teachers, secondary teachers, and amateur astronomers) in the process.

Funds received from OAD will go into 6-days training sessions focused around two themes:
a) acquiring astronomical data remotely with Astrolab,
b) data processing using the python programming language with the library Astropy.

About IAU-OAD

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together about 13,000 distinguished astronomers from around the world. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world’s largest professional body for astronomers.

The IAU established the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) in partnership with the South African National Research Foundation (NRF), and supported by the South African Department of Science and Innovation. The OAD, located at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town, South Africa, aims to help further the use of astronomy, including its practitioners, skills and infrastructures, as a tool for development.



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