Zarah Brown Wins Space Grant Fellowship

Zarah Brown Wins Space Grant Fellowship

Fourth-year student Zarah Brown has won a UA/NASA Space Grant Graduate Fellowship from the Arizona Space Grant Consortium. Zarah's winning proposal, The Arizona Scale Model Solar System, has as its objective the installation of a 1:5 billion scale model of the solar system on the UArizona campus. The model would stretch from the Kuiper building, site of the Sun and inner planets, to the western edge of campus (Park Avenue), where Neptune will be located. The project, in addition to highlighting the university's legacy of space exploration, supports objectives in math and critical thinking as it inspires enthusiasim and appreciation for science and math.

The scale model project facilitates an active learning environment, supporting visual and kinesthetic learners. A prominent objective is to engage undergraduate non-science majors who struggle with concepts such as astronomical scale, speed and distance, so the project will include course materials designed to support faculty who teach introductory astronomy and planetary science courses at the University of Arizona. Specifically, Zarah will develop a one-day lab exercise for use in conjunction with the model, partnering with one or more instructors to implement its use. The lab exercise and associated materials will be curated at LPL by Associate Professor of Practice Dr. Steve Kortenkamp, who will ensure the materials are kept current and available to instructors. Learning outcomes include:

  • Remembering the planets in the solar system and their order
  • Understanding key differences between terrestrial and gas planets
  • Demonstrating ability to convert between units and an understanding astronomical units
  • Being able to calculate the distances to other objects on this scale
  • Knowing the speed of light and being able to explain why communication by light is the most realistic means of communication between star systems

Zarah envisions the model becoming a favorite destination for local K-12 schools, perhaps in partnership with Flandrau Science Center. Installation is planned for the first half of 2022.

The UA/NASA Space Grant Program, in collaboration with the UA Graduate College and the nominating department, funds six graduate fellowships per year to exceptional graduate students interested in promoting the understanding of space-related research to the public. Applicants are asked to propose a 1-2 year project focused on educational outreach, knowledge transfer, technology transfer, science for society, and/or the promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to those traditionally underrepresented in STEM. In keeping with National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program goals, Space Grant Fellows develop projects that promotes the understanding of space-related research to the public through original research and outreach efforts. Awards include a stipend, tuition and registration fee waivers, student health insurance, and a travel grant to attend professional conferences.