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Rich Named IYA Student Ambassador

Jeff Rich

NASA has selected IfA graduate student Jeffrey Rich as Hawaii's "student ambassador" for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. NASA initiated the student ambassador program to encourage graduate and undergraduate students to plan and coordinate public outreach activities during IYA. Student ambassadors receive a $2,000 stipend and up to $700 for reimbursement of materials, supplies, and travel expenses for the execution of their activities.

Rich is currently the coordinator for GEPOC (Graduate Education and Public Outreach Committee), a group of IfA graduate students who volunteer their time to informally teach astronomy to public and private school students, to community groups, and at various public events. He succeeded Joe Masiero, whose exceptional efforts expanded graduate student outreach over the past three years to include a long list of planetarium shows, public talks, and demonstrations.

GEPOC will continue to undertake these activities throughout IYA, with a few additions. "We hope to have a few impromptu stargazing sessions, in the vein of sidewalk astronomy. We plan to use the student ambassador money to make a few new demos and displays for our public events and sessions with students," said Rich.

Thanks to a very generous donation from Jo Ann and Marc Schindler, two Friends of the IfA, the outreach community at IfA now has its own van, which is needed to transport the inflatable StarLab planetarium and telescopes. This will allow GEPOC members and others conducting outreach activities more freedom when planning activities on Oahu. It will also enable GEPOC members to take their equipment to Maui via the Superferry to reach out to students there.