Community and Cosmos: STEAM Sparks in Rochester

May 9, 2024 | Podcast, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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Summary

Dan Schneiderman is the Eclipse Partnership Coordinator at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, and co-chair of the Rochester Eclipse Task Force. Over the past five years, he’s been at the forefront of regional efforts, collaborating with major organizations like NASA and I LOVE NY to gear up for the April 8th, 2024 Total Solar Eclipse. Schneiderman’s impressive track record includes delivering over 100 presentations, spearheading more than 40 events, enhancing NOAA’s Science on a Sphere datasets, and providing expert guidance on eclipse coordination for various organizations through Science Sandbox. Here in Rochester, he initiated the RMSC Community Eclipse Ambassador Program, empowering local organizations in astronomy and setting up over 60 telescopes across the region.

Dan Schneiderman, the Eclipse Partnership Coordinator at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, has been a driving force in preparing for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse. Since 2019, Schneiderman has not only consumed extensive literature on eclipses but actively participated in stakeholder meetings, which paved the way for his deeper involvement. This early engagement showcased his commitment, turning his initial volunteerism into a leadership role by 2021. His proactive approach during the planning phases emphasized not just awareness, but ensuring the local community was equipped and excited about the eclipse. This groundwork laid the foundation for extensive outreach programs and the creation of the RMSC Community Eclipse Ambassador Program, enhancing local astronomical activities and learning opportunities.

Media Spotlight and Community Impact

Schneiderman’s efforts gained significant attention when CBS News featured the event, with prominent figures like Gayle King donning RMSC sunglasses, a moment Schneiderman describes as surreal and affirming of their extensive outreach. This national coverage was not just a media win but a testament to the broad impact of their initiatives. Despite uncertainties about the exact number of visitors due to weather conditions affecting travel plans, the event was a considerable success, drawing substantial crowds and enriching the community’s scientific engagement.

Technological Enhancements and Educational Aspiration

A key component of the eclipse viewing was the integration of advanced technology, including new telescopes equipped with solar filters and streaming capabilities, ensuring accessibility and enhancing the viewer experience. The RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium, led by James Bader, played a crucial role, offering frequent shows to educate and excite the public about celestial phenomena. Beyond the immediate spectacle, Schneiderman highlighted the broader educational goals like inspiring schools to close for the day to allow students to experience the eclipse fully. This initiative aimed not just to educate but to ignite a lasting curiosity about astronomy and the natural world, leveraging the eclipse as a powerful tool for lifelong learning and appreciation of science.

Key Learnings About Community Engagement 
  1. Meet the Community Where They Are: Instead of expecting people to come to the museum, Dan Schneiderman made a concerted effort to reach out directly to local organizations and events, decentralizing the message to ensure broader accessibility.
  2. Empower Local Ambassadors: The RMSC Community Eclipse Ambassador program empowered local organizations to conduct their own astronomical initiatives, providing training, equipment, and materials so that they could engage their communities effectively.
  3. Leverage Media Exposure: Media coverage, including national attention from CBS, helped amplify their efforts and validate the initiative’s significance, ensuring that the excitement reached a much larger audience.
  4. Use Technology for Accessibility: Advanced telescopes with solar filters, live streaming capabilities, and planetarium shows made the eclipse accessible and exciting, enhancing the viewer experience while also educating them.
  5. Create Partnerships and Involve Diverse Groups: Partnering with organizations representing various demographics ensured underrepresented communities were included, fostering broad participation through inclusive, multilingual materials and programs.
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Circle Optics at RMSC

Circle Optics’ team had a great time capturing the RMSC community and sharing the most recent camera system, Hydra II. We loved seeing so many students, families, and community leaders. We know that there is a whole new generation of optical, mechanical, and software engineers who will cite April 8th as their moment of inspiration.

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