Using Archived Data in Course Projects: A Call for Collaboration

By/par Magdalen Normandeau (UNB)
(Cassiopeia – Summer/été 2017)

There is a wealth of easily accessible archived data and databases that provide opportunities to give our undergrad students a taste of real data and a sense of the puzzle-solving involved in doing astronomy. However, coming up with a good project is time-consuming. Also, if one is not an expert in the particular subfield, there is the danger of introducing some serious error in the process of trying to craft something that is tractable in the context of a course.

I propose that we help each other – and our students – by collaborating on the elaboration of course projects and in-class activities that use publicly available data. I offer to coordinate the effort both by collecting the materials and finding a way to distribute them. Also, I offer to provide assistance, consultation and feedback on the pedagogical side (worrying about teaching effectiveness is what I do now rather than worrying about the impact of Wolf-Rayet stars on the surrounding ISM).

If you are interested in creating a project this summer, please email me ( the following information:

  • Your name and the names of anyone else who helps you on this project
  • Your institution(s)
  • The database that you intend using
  • The level for which you will be designing.
    • I have in mind intro astro for physics students at the 2nd or 3rd year level, but you should feel free to specify something else. Given the wealth of resources available for general education astro, my tendency is to design something for students with a stronger science background, the potential future astrophysicists.
  • The scope of project that you have in mind
    • A term project worth a substantial fraction of their final grade? One of a few projects scattered throughout the term? Part of a weekly or biweekly assignment? An in-class activity?

If two or more people propose similar projects, I’ll put them in touch with each other to avoid duplication of effort.

I doubt I’ll get any takers on this, but it’s worth a shot!

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