In 2008, Néstor Espinoza, an Astronomy student at the Universidad Católica de Chile worked as a monitor of the “Itinerant Physics” program, an initiative through which students of the university go from school to school teaching basic notions of physics by means of experiments and activity bags. Néstor was so surprised to see how interested the young people were in these subjects that, now in his third year at the university, he decided to take things a step further and create a virtual platform that would allow them to get closer to this science in a more realistic context.
The result was «Bling Bling Universe«. an educational software that provides a series of tools –such as guidebooks and tutorials– so that the school community can experiment and gain deeper knowledge about astronomical sciences. Through the information provided by the website, students will be capable of understanding relevant astronomical topics, mainly through the program Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), a gigantic source of professional astronomical data where more than 2,000 scientific articles have been published from all over the world.
“Students can work, for example, with data from a telescope located in Apache Point, in New Mexico”, explains Néstor Espinoza, the leader of this group project that also contemplates students of Physics and Education at the Universidad Católica.
Financed by the Institutional Development Fund of the Ministry of Education, “Bling Bling Universe” seeks to act as a bridge between secondary education and scientific practice through three lines of work: definition of color in physics-astronomy, classification of galaxies through the use of data and images, and measurement of the expanse of the Universe using data and images. In spite of the fact that this program was only presented formally a few days ago, teachers from various regions have expressed their willingness to use it.
According to Espinoza, this type of initiative not only encourages the use of the internet as a learning tool but also provides greater depth of content. “The students can really weigh what is involved in being a scientist, and must reason, think about and question what they do to obtain results. The answers won’t come from us, but from their own experiments using data provided by the SDSS”, he concludes.