The Hawaii State Department of Education officially opened its first research-grade space observatory Monday night at Waipahu High School thanks to the generous support of the McInerny Foundation. The foundation has donated more than $200,000 to purchase and install a 17-inch telescope and 12.5-foot dome on the Waipahu campus, which will help encourage student interest in STEM-related careers .
“With a rapidly changing world, we know the sky is now the limit with the learning and opportunities our students yearn to be elevated growing every day. Tonight we are making history,” said Governor David Ige.
The observatory will support students enrolled in the school’s College-Level Astronomy Course (ASTR) 295 through Waipahu’s Early College Program with Leeward Community College. The dual-credit program allows students to take courses that satisfy the requirements for a high school diploma and a University of Hawaii degree. The McInerny Foundation is credited with supporting Waipahu High School’s Early College Initiative with $2.65 million in funding over the past decade.
Since the program’s inception in 2012, Waipahu students at ASTR 295 have made outstanding contributions to the scientific and astronomical community, including three student-authored publications in the peer-reviewed journal. Journal of Double Star Observations. Most recently, four ASTR 295 students were recognized for their research and gained access to some of Hawaii’s cutting-edge technologies at Maunakea Observatories.
The newly installed telescope is designed for remote use, allowing astronomy students at Early College Waipahu to collaborate on joint research projects with teams across the state, country and world. Using commands that can be administered from any device with Internet access, students can observe and capture color and infrared photographs of outer space using the cameras used by weather stations.
“This observatory is just one of many things happening here at Waipahu High School. I think there will be a lot more energy moving forward as we leverage this learning to go beyond. beyond our wildest dreams by helping to connect our students through STEM and astronomical learning,” said Superintendent Keith Hayashi.
“Building this observatory is very monumental, not only for Waipahu, but also for giving students the opportunity to explore astronomy like I did,” said Zachary Tamboa, one of the ASTR 295 students. of Waipahu that was published in a peer-reviewed journal. “I was able to explore astronomy through the class and the creation of this observatory will allow us to deepen our research and educate new people, new astronomers.”
As a preventive security measure, the observatory has been strategically installed on a building roof that does not overlook any classrooms and is remotely controlled. The selected location is the least polluted by light on campus.
The Early College initiative celebrates its 10th anniversary this summer. Over the past decade, Introduction to Astronomy (ASTR 110) has remained one of the most popular science courses offered by the program.