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Private Gift Equips New Laboratory Course

Chris and Hazel Theodore

A portion of a generous grant from the Chris Athanasios and Hazel Theodore Fund has enabled the University to acquire equipment for the UH Manoa Astronomy 110 Laboratory course offered for the first time this spring. The Theodores' gift provided six 8-inch Dobsonian reflecting telescopes, thirty pairs of 10 x 50 binoculars, thirty refracting telescope kits, thirty spectroscope kits, and thirty cross-staffs for use in learning the techniques of astronomical observing and conducting laboratory experiments.

Dr. Joshua Barnes, an IfA astronomer and the course instructor, said, "We had been wanting to offer an introductory lab course for quite some time. We finally received the approval to proceed but lacked the funds to purchase the necessary equipment. The gift from Chris and Hazel Theodore came at the opportune time and made it possible to acquire everything we needed to begin the course this semester."

All available spaces in the undergraduate lab course filled quickly, and a waiting list was created. To accommodate as many students as possible, Dr. Barnes allowed the course to begin with a starting enrollment of twenty-seven, two more than the original limit of twenty-five. He commented, "It's gratifying to see such an overwhelming interest from students. Our hope is that the lab's hands-on training will further increase the number of undergraduates studying astronomy at UH Manoa ."

The Astronomy 110 Lab meets once a week in the evening. There will be one daytime meeting to view the Sun and one nighttime field trip to a dark site to view the Milky Way and faint objects. Dr. Barnes and volunteer teaching assistant Michael Nassir, an instructor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and a former IfA graduate student, teach their students how to observe the night sky, the movement and interrelation of bodies in space and on Earth, the theory and practice of using telescopes, impact crater formation and interpretation, distance measurement techniques, and how to take solar and stellar spectra. Besides teaching students about the appearance of constellations, planets, stars, and other astronomical objects, the class exercises are designed to explore connections between astronomical and terrestrial laws of nature. Dr. Barnes and Mr. Nassir present this material using everyday examples, simple physical ideas, and minimal mathematics. Their goal is to make the course completely transparent to anyone with a basic interest in astronomy.

Chris Theodore is pleased because the couple's gift is making it possible for students to learn the basics of astronomy and because the students have responded with enthusiasm. He commented to Mrs. Theodore, "Isn't it wonderful they (the students) are getting to study astronomy this way?" She agreed, adding, "It would also make me happy if our gift encourages others to support the Institute and the University as we have."