Using a telescope set up atop the Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Garreth Ruane (center), postdoctoral scholar in astronomy, shows visiting students from South Pasadena High School filtered views of the sun.
Members of the ZTF collaboration have been involved with several programs which offer summer research opportunities to high school students. For example, the ZTF stellar variable group, including Tom Prince, Kevin Burdge, Jim Fuller and Jan van Roestel, have participated in the Summer Research Connection (SRC) program for high-school students, organized by Caltech's Center for Teaching, Lerning and Outreach (CTLO).
The Caltech/ZTF SRC program targets the local Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD), which has a large population of underrepresented minorities with 60.2% Hispanic, 15.3% African American, 15.1% Caucasian and 5.9% Asian. 67.5% of the students are low income as determined by eligibility for the free and reduced lunch program. It ran in 2019 and 2020, and 2021. Each year it hosted 2 to 5 local Pasadena high-school students in 1-on-1 interactions. The students began the program with no astronomy or programming expertise. By the end of the summer, the students were able to use Python for data analysis, had become familiar with use of scientific back-of-the-envelope estimation, and were comfortable going up to the white board and discussing their results quantitatively.
Covid-19 pandemic did not stop the ZTF mentorship activities offered to high school students. In the summer of 2020, several programs were carefully designed and carried out remotely via Zoom. At the end of the summer, each student presented their results. Josie Enenstein, a senior high school student from Harvard Westlake in Los Angeles conducted a research project with Burdge and Prof Prince remotely on a type of eclipsing binary system called HW Virginis. Her presentation is availabe here. Xander Hall, a graduating senior from the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) worked with ZTF partner Adam Miller from Northwestern University on the ZTF Bright Transient Survey (BTS). He analyzed both photometric measurements made by ZTF and spectroscopic observations taken by the SEDm. Xander has also developed an analysis backend to feed data into the Zwicky Chemical Factory citizen science project on Zooniverse.
In the summer of 2019, Dr. Lin Yan and Dr. Ashish Mahabal from Caltech mentored three high school students, two sophmore and one junior from high schools in Pasadena, California. Students learnt how to identify real transient candidates from the artifacts produced by the ZTF pipeline, and how to write simple python programs to present their findings. Dr. Yan also gave them a tour on the remote observation using the Palomar 200 inch telescope during one of her actual observing runs.