Sonoma State University
Department of Physics and Astronomy

Lynn Cominsky and Laura Whitlock
Win Space Education Grants

Dr. Lynn Cominsky, professor of Physics and Astronomy at Sonoma State University received two grants from NASA, totaling over $1,500,000, for education and research.

Cominsky teamed with Dr. Laura Whitlock, formerly the director of Education and Outreach for High Energy Astrophysics at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, to write the proposals for the projects.

The first grant of $665,000 will be used to prepare a three-part LEARNERS (Leading Educators to Applications, Research and NASA-Related Educational Resources in Science) Space Mysteries series of learning modules. One of seven proposals selected for funding, out of over 170 submitted, the Space Mystery series is an innovative and exciting way to teach physical science and math to high school students in grades 9-12. Each module is an interactive exploration, that includes real astronomical data archived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Students will learn as they try to solve each mystery using clues found in video interviews with scientists, newspaper articles, pictures and measurements. The first of the three user friendly mystery games, Escape from the Doomed Planet, will be ready for use on the Web by Spring of 2001.

SSU's Space Mystery series will be developed in partnership with Videodiscovery Inc., an award-winning educational software company located in Seattle, Washington, and will be field-tested by high school teachers, including Jay Goldberg of Sebastopol's Analy High School.

The second grant of over $920,000 was awarded to Cominsky and Whitlock to develop educational tools related to the Swift satellite. The goal of this grant is to find ways to explain Swift's research on gamma-ray bursts to the public. Swift was designed to try to solve one of the greatest astronomical mysteries - what causes gamma ray bursts, the most powerful explosions in the Universe? The SSU work for Swift will allow students in grades 7-12 to learn about gamma ray bursts using hands-on math and science to make calculations and do research. For more information, contact Lynn Cominsky or Laura Whitlock at SSU in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at 707-664-2119.


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