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Skynet Junior Scholars

With support from the National Science Foundation, The University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the University of North Carolina, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and 4-H are collaborating to provide professional development to 180 4-H leaders and other informal science educators, and engage 1,400 middle school youth in using research-grade robotic telescopes and data analysis tools to explore the Universe. Youth participating in 4-H-based and other out-of-school programs in Wisconsin, West Virginia and North Carolina will learn about the universe and prepare for STEM careers by conducting authentic astronomy research, completing astronomy-related hands-on modeling activities, interacting with astronomers and other professionals who are part of the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network, and interacting with other youth who are part of the Skynet Junior Scholars virtual community.

The innovative project provides a diverse community of youth (including sight- and hearing-challenged youth and those from underrepresented groups) with opportunities to use research-grade, remotely located, Internet-controlled telescopes to explore the heavens by surveying galaxies, tracking asteroids, monitoring variable stars. Along the way, they learn about the nature and methods of science. The Skynet Junior Scholars project will provide:

  • online access to optical and radio telescopes, data analysis tools, and professional astronomers,
  • an age-appropriate web-based interface for controlling remote telescopes,
  • inquiry-based standards-aligned instructional modules,
  • face-to-face and online professional development for 4-H leaders and informal science educators,
  • programming for youth in out-of-school clubs and clubs,
  • evaluation findings on the impacts of program activities on participants, and
  • research findings on how web-based interactions between youth and scientists can promote student interest in and preparedness for STEM careers.

Get Involved

Visit the Skynet Junior Scholars website
Sign up for online or face-to-face professional development workshops


The following groups are collaborating on the development of the Skynet Junior Scholars program.

  • The University of Chicago Astrophysics Department and Yerkes Observatory
  • National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, WV
  • Astronomical Society of the Pacific
  • Center for Elementary Math and Science Education
  • University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
  • University of Wisconsin Extension - 4-H
  • West Virginia University Extension – 4-H
  • Wisconsin School for the Deaf
  • Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Friends of Skynet—other astronomy education programs.
  • Pulsar Search Collaboratory
  • Galaxy Zoo
  • Sloan Digital Sky Survey
  • "Stars at Yerkes" Professional Learning Community
Advisory Committee Members.
  • Mary Dussault, MicroObservatory
  • Kevin McLin, HUME Skynet telescope
  • Luisa Rebull, NITARP and Spitzer Space Telescope
  • Constance Gartner, Wisconsin School for the Deaf
  • Jeremiah Beasley, Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired and
  • National Federation of the Blind
  • Larry Marschall, Project CLEA, Gettysburg College
  • Max Mutchler, Space Telescope Science Institute

skynet-logoskynet-js-yerkesSkynet Junior Scholars exploring tactile images of space taken by Skynet telescope. Credit: Yerkes Observatoryskynet-40ftNRAO's 20-meter telescope is the only radio telescope on the network. Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF
sjs imageSkynet Junior Scholars can take their own images in different filters and create color composites. Credit: User kupuu9335 from Skynet Junior Scholars; NRAO/AUI/NSF; Yerkes Observatory; University of Chicago Astrophysics; Astronomical Society of the Pacific; University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.