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Session 27 - History and Teaching of Astronomy.
Oral session, Monday, June 10
Old Madison,

[27.05] A Rooftop Radio Observatory: A New Method for Teaching Science Fundamentals to Advanced Undergraduates

C. Frank, D. Cudaback, C. Heiles, R. Treffers, C. Hancox, R. Millan, R. Parthasarathy (U. C. Berkeley)

This paper reports on an innovative teaching style for the instruction of advanced undergraduates in experimental science fundamentals. Working under the belief that a complete education includes both theoretical work and ``hands-on'' laboratory experience, a radio observatory has been created on top of the U. C. Berkeley Astronomy Department building. Class work with this observatory give students an understanding of: components of a radio telescope system, (2) system operation and trouble-shooting, (3) observation strategies, (4) data collection and reduction, and (5) presentation and visualization of results.

Our antenna consists of a two meter tall pyramidal horn optimized to observe the 21 cm atomic hydrogen transition. The receiver consists of a double-heterodyning system with a PC to sample and Fourier transform the signal and generate a power spectrum. System components were constructed by students with guidance from faculty members. Students using this system obtain power spectra representing the Doppler shifted HI line, as a function of galactic coordinate. Students derive results including basic galactic structure and rotation and mass curves. Further technical information is presented in the accompanying poster paper.

Close contact between students and equipment is essential for successful comprehension of fundamental concepts. The system is constructed such that most components can be individually examined or assembled on a bench-top in a configuration the student wishes to explore.

We believe that systems which perform real astronomy can be duplicated by other universities. The small scale of the antenna as well as the strength of the HI line require a small allocation of resources to implement an observation system. The ``hands-on'' approach compliments theoretical course work, in addition to providing practical experience for students who may not be inclined towards graduate school. Finally, this educational technique is exportable and potentially valuable to other scientific disciplines.

Program listing for Monday