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Promoting Public Engagement: The Arizona Scale Model Solar System

Presentation #312.08 in the session IDEA, Education, Public Engagement, Workforce Development and History (Poster)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Promoting Public Engagement: The Arizona Scale Model Solar System

The Arizona Scale Model Solar System project addresses the challenge of conceptualizing scales in planetary science and engaging individuals who may not already have prior interest in or ready access to this information. This permanent installation on the University of Arizona campus showcases the relative sizes and distances of solar system objects at a 1:5 billion scale. Spanning 1.2 km along the main campus mall and adjacent commercial space, the project aims to bring a cosmic perspective to the community by providing a tangible and immersive experience. Informative plaques accompanying each object offer details on mass, diameter, surface gravity, temperature, and captivating stories of scientific contributions by the University of Arizona. By locating the model in high traffic areas, this project will expand its reach to a wide audience of campus visitors (including k-12 children), members of the university and local Tucson residents.

Like the roughly 30% of American adults who consider themselves as having low math skills, many of the non-major students enrolled in space science electives at the University of Arizona struggle with math skills, including calculations of distances and conversions between units. To address this, a one-day undergraduate lab was developed to complement the Arizona Scale Model Solar System installation. This lab aims to create an active learning environment, accommodating visual and kinesthetic learners, while fostering math and critical thinking objectives. The lab’s effectiveness and impact on conceptual understanding will be evaluated through pre- and post-lab practical skills assessments.

The project seeks to make space science accessible to the public, bridging the gap between experts and non-experts. It aims to cultivate interest in enrollment for astronomy and planetary science courses at the University of Arizona while fostering a cosmic perspective that promotes lifelong learning and a sense of environmental stewardship.

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