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  WTTS • Stars for Schools

Stars for Schools

Stars for Schools is a research project for school years 10-13 (ages 14-18). It involves investigating how stars evolve using software and coding on the Raspberry Pi. Students will be able to carry out short research projects, each of which investigates one aspect of the physics or a historical discovery in stellar astronomy.

The project aims both to educate and demonstrate the physical and mathematical beauty of the stars in our sky. Stars are unique laboratories that feel the influence of all physics from tiny-scale quantum mechanics to large-scale general relatively.

Stars for Schools is in two main parts: the software and the course guide.
  1. The Window to the Stars software is the main tool used by students in the project. This is a graphical user interface to the TWIN stellar evolution code which is software used by professional astrophysicists. You can think of this as like a web browser that makes your stars on a computer. The software is provided as a Raspberry Pi image or a virtual machine for use with VirtualBox.
  2. We provide a a detailed guide to using the Window to the Stars software to investigate the physics of stars. This guide is suitable for students with some mathematical and physics knowledge typical of UK school year 10 (aged 14-15) or later. It introduces them to the computational skills and physics of stars as needed.

Completing the work takes about 1-2hr per week over an approximately 12-week term, and can be done both in school and at home. We recommend students try Stars for Schools in the lower-5th (UK year 10, age 14-15) or lower-6th (UK year 12, age 16-17).

If you need help with either software installation or to understand the physics of stars, or would like us to visit your school, either in reality or virtually, please just drop me an email (at the bottom of the page).

The local member of parliament, Munira Wilson, learns how to use Window to the Stars with the students at the Lady Eleanor Holles school.

Would you like to help?

We are currently seeking academic partners from primarily UK institutions to spread the good word of Window to the Stars.
  • Are you a professional astrophysicist interested in working with a local school to provide astrophysics and astronomy edcuation?
  • Do you have members of your team, such as PhD students, who would greatly benefit from this experience?
  • Are you teaching at a school that wants to be involved and you need a local partner?
If any of these are true then please get in touch by email (at the bottom of the page) and we will organise the material and training, and try to find local academic help for you.

Comments from Stars for Schools students at LEHS:
  • I wanted to study A-level physics and maths, and this definitely confirmed my choices.
  • Now I'm definitely considering studying physics at university.
  • I do computer science GCSE but Stars for Schools was the only chance that we've had to learn Python. I'm now doing a project with its graphical library modelling a ball dropping under gravity.
  • I think this project really opened my eyes to how many similar projects I could find and really pushed me to try and find those opportunities.
  • I think it's projects like this that show people what can be done.

Stars for Schools has been made possible with the help of many extremely generous staff and students. In particular, Rahul Kakaiya, Sabana Ghale, Natalie Rees, Arman Aryaeipour, Michael Armstrong and Gemma Kerr at the University of Surrey, and Andy Brittain at the Lady Eleanor Holles school.

The Window to the Stars software was written with the help of Evert Glebbeek and uses Peter Eggleton's stellar evolution code, TWIN. I am infinitely grateful to you both!

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