The SciAccess Zenith Mentorship Program is a fully virtual program that engages blind and visually impaired (BVI) students in astronomy and space science by pairing them with student mentors at the Ohio State University. Created in 2020 in partnership with Ohio State and the Ohio State School for the Blind, Zenith is open to BVI students in grades 8 through 12 from around the world and provides them with an entry point into the fascinating world of astronomy and research.
Paired one-on-one with undergraduate and graduate students in space science fields, students grow academically as they attend weekly lectures from astronomers at Ohio State and beyond, engage in discussion with the full program cohort, and participate in real astronomy research with their mentors. Students also grow their professional and social networks by connecting with established members in the field of astronomy and meeting peers with similar experiences and interests.
Zenith was formed to make astronomy accessible for all students. To do this, the hallmark activity of the program involves the students in Transient Zoo, a citizen science project that uses sonified data to identify light curves from supernovae. Instead of looking at graphs of a supernova’s varying brightness, students listen to audio versions of the data to determine which kind of supernova each dataset is from. Students also learn tactilely about the universe through 3-D models printed by our partners at See3D, who print and distribute 3-D models for BVI people. Some of the models used include a constellation dome, black hole, and the Whirlpool Galaxy, as seen in the images below:
The main activity of Zenith involves our students in Transient Zoo, a citizen science project that uses sonified data to identify light curves from supernovae. A supernova is a large and very bright explosion that takes place at the end of very large stars’ life cycles.
As part of the Zenith program, students and their mentors work together to listen to data from Transient Zoo and identify which kind of supernova each dataset is from.
Ohio State Department of Astronomy: https://astronomy.osu.edu/
Transient Zoo: https://www.emlevesque.com/transientzoo/
NASA 3D Models: https://nasa3d.arc.nasa.gov/models
GLAS Education: https://www.glaseducation.org/
National Center for Blind Youth in Science: https://www.nfb.org/programs-services/national-center-blind-youth-science