At ICRAR we believe everyone should have the opportunity to be inspired and excited about astronomy and science.
But, Western Australia’s size, with communities separated by hundreds, or in some cases, thousands of kilometres of outback, creates a significant geographical challenge for organisations seeking to engage with those living in towns and communities in regional and remote areas.
By working with others—something ICRAR does in both research and outreach—these barriers can be reduced and overcome. A collaborative approach maximises impact, minimises cost, avoids duplication of effort and leads to a mutually beneficial relationship with other organisations.
ICRAR plays a leading role in the Astronomy WA network. Including representatives from amateur astronomy groups, local observatories, Scitech, and astronomically themed commercial ventures, this collaborative collective brings together astronomy outreach providers to deliver community events in Perth and regional Western Australia.
Visit the Astronomy WA website.
Aspire UWA works with more than 70 partner schools and communities in regional Western Australia and Perth to raise aspirations for tertiary education. The program encourages students who would not normally consider university to see the benefits and opportunities that tertiary study offers.
Visit the Aspire UWA website.
UWA’s School of Indigenous Studies
ICRAR works with UWA’s School of Indigenous Studies to deliver programs that engage with Indigenous students from throughout Western Australia.
Visit the School of Indigenous Studies website.
As Western Australia’s leading science education institution, Scitech aims to increase awareness, interest, capability and participation by all Western Australians in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Visit the Scitech website.
An initiative to protect WA’s night skies from the growing threat of light pollution and promote WA towns as astronomical destinations for domestic and overseas visitors.
Visit the AstroTourism WA website.
The ICRAR outreach team travels to regional communities to deliver astronomy-themed events and programs for local schools with activities that engage a spectrum of learners.
Students observe the Sun using special solar telescopes, learn about the composition and evolution of galaxies through science and maths problems, undertake simple scientific investigations based around water rocket launches, and find out about big science projects happening in WA, like the Square Kilometre Array.
In the evenings, the ICRAR team set up telescopes on the local oval and invite people from the community to come and explore their night sky. Guided by our expert staff, they experience and learn about objects like the Moon, Jupiter, the Jewel Box, the Orion Nebula, Omega Centauri and more.
Whilst astronomy provides the underlying theme for these programs and experiences, we also engage students in a broader conversation about the benefits of tertiary education and the options and support available to them if they decide to go to university.
Research has shown that a principal determining factor for participation in higher learning is the extent to which education is valued and promoted within the family and community. So, by engaging school students, educators and also the wider community through our programs, ICRAR promotes the benefits and opportunities that education has the potential to bring to everyone in that community
Western Australia’s awe-inspiring night skies present a perfect opportunity through which to engage people with the wonders of science and astronomy. In collaboration with amateur astronomy groups and other astronomy outreach providers, ICRAR has delivered regional Astrofest to towns and communities including Mt Magnet, Tom Price, Carnarvon, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Pinjarra, Mandurah, Dandaragan, Pingelly and Wongan Hills.
These events can include a range of components such as inflatable planetariums, science shows, an astrophotography exhibition, science presentations, a virtual reality experience, 3D printing, competitions, telescopes for solar and night sky observing, and live night sky presentations.
The SPIRIT Initiative
Students and educators from underrepresented schools and communities are a key audience for this initiative. Consisting of four research-grade telescopes that can be controlled remotely from anywhere in the world, the SPIRIT telescopes allow schools to access the same tools used by researchers and astronomers to observe and collect astronomical data.
ICRAR’s joint outreach program with ASTRO 3D focuses on student self-efficacy in under-represented areas in STEM, including women. By engaging in astronomical imaging using the SPIRIT remote optical telescopes, students build their self-image as capable STEM practitioners and might even begin to change their future goals.
Work Experience Programs
Year 10 and 11 students can apply to join ICRAR researchers and outreach & education staff for a high impact week learning about astronomy, engineering and data science as a career in WA.
Students split their time between both ICRAR nodes, engaging with a mix of researchers, learning about the day-to-day work of our astronomers, computing specialists and engineers, as well as contributing to ICRAR’s outreach programs.
Since 2010, ICRAR has hosted 65 high school students and we’re currently developing a dedicated work experience program for year 10 Indigenous students interested in astronomy and space science.
Selected undergraduate students from Australia and New Zealand receive up to $7,600 over a 12-week internship, with two places each year prioritised for Indigenous applicants. An excellent opportunity for undergraduate students to experience cutting edge research in Australia.
Indigenous Australian Engineering School
ICRAR is a sponsor and participant in the annual Indigenous Australian Engineering School (IAES) hosted by Curtin University on behalf of Engineering Aid Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from around Australia spend a week experiencing campus life, meeting engineering role models and gaining insights into the opportunities available to them through WA-based engineering careers.
Some of ICRAR’s Masters and PhD students who dub themselves the ‘GALaxies’ have created an outreach talk aiming to encourage more diversity in STEM by showing secondary students what it’s like to work in astronomy, as well as sharing their love of all things space in an engaging way.
The GALaxies have started offering their talk to regional WA schools, as well as schools in metropolitan Perth who are part of the ‘Aspire Program’ for schools with high proportions of students from low SES backgrounds and underrepresented demographics in higher education.
An astrophotography themed program developed for students attending high schools in regional and low socio-economic parts of the State. Students learn how to use a digital SLR camera to capture inspiring images of the night sky while building upon their knowledge of science and astronomy.
Indigenous Art Exhibitions
Through the work of ICRAR’s Deputy Executive Director Professor Steven Tingay, ICRAR has helped preserve Indigenous views of the heavens and bring them to the world through a unique collaboration with Yamaji Art in Geraldton.
In 2009, Australian Indigenous artists from Yamaji Art in Geraldton and astrophysicists from ICRAR came together to explore different understandings of the night sky and the Universe. The resulting exhibition, known as ‘Ilgarijiri – Things Belonging to the Sky’, has toured Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Europe and the US, even featuring at the European Parliament in Brussels. The exhibition has been viewed by thousands of people and generated wide acclaim for the opportunities it provided for the artists to gain exposure for their work.
ICRAR researchers once again joined Yamaji artists from WA’s Mid West in 2014 for the ‘Shared Sky’ project, a celebration of Indigenous Australian and African art. The astronomers and artists gathered under a starry night sky at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory to share their perspectives on constellations and stars. A similar cultural exchange also took part in South Africa, where the other half of the SKA is set to be built.
These ancient stories inspired the Indigenous artists to explore their relationship to the sky through paintings, collages, sculptural installations and emu egg carvings. Together with South African artists, they created an international touring exhibition of astronomy artworks from the SKA telescope sites in Africa and Australia. The Shared Sky exhibition has travelled through five continents to celebrate these two ancient cultures and raise awareness of the SKA project.
Star Dreaming Full Dome Show
Produced by Perth-based production company Prospero, this full dome show explores Indigenous sky stories as seen through the eyes of Yamaji artists from WA’s Mid West region, and the science behind them as we begin building the world’s largest radio telescope—the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), located on the land of the Yamaji people.